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J Headache Pain. 2011 Jun;12(3):303-10. doi: 10.1007/s10194-011-0313-9. Epub 2011 Feb 19.

Basal cutaneous pain threshold in headache patients.

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  • 1Headache and Drug Abuse Inter Dept. Research Centre, University of Modena, Modena, Italy.


The aim of this study was to analyze cutaneous pain threshold (CPT) during the interictal phase in headache patients, and the relationships between headache frequency and analgesic use. A consecutive series of 98 headache patients and 26 sex- and age-balanced controls were evaluated. Acute allodynia (AA) was assessed by Jakubowski questionnaire, and interictal allodynia (IA) by a skin test with calibrated monofilaments. AA is widely known as a symptom more present in migraine than in TTH spectrum: in our study this was confirmed only in cases of episodic attacks. When headache index rises towards chronicization, the prevalence of AA increases in both headache spectrums (χ (2) 13.55; p < 0.01). AA was associated with IA only in cases of chronic headache. When headache becomes chronic, mostly in presence of medication overuse, interictal CPT decreases and IA prevalence increases (χ (2) 20.44; p < 0.01), with closer association than AA. In MOH patients there were no significant differences depending on the diagnosis of starting headache (migraine or tension type headache) and, in both groups, we found the overuse of analgesics plays an important role: intake of more than one daily drug dramatically reduces the CPT (p < 0.05). Thus, when acute allodynia increases frequency, worsens or appears for the first time in patients with a long-standing history of chronic headache, it could reasonably suggest that the reduction of CPT had started, without using a specific practical skin test but simply by questioning clinical headache history. In conclusion, these results indicate that the role of medication overuse is more important than chronicization in lowering CPT, and suggest that prolonged periods of medication overuse can interfere with pain perception by a reduction of the pain threshold that facilitates the onset of every new attack leading to chronicization.

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