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CNS Drugs. 2003;17(6):373-81.

Preventative treatment for migraine and tension-type headaches : do drugs having effects on muscle spasm and tone have a role?

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Department of Family Medicine, Finch University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School, North Chicago, Illinois 60614, USA.


Baclofen, tizanidine and botulinum toxin A, agents used to treat disorders of muscle tone, have been studied as potential preventative treatments for migraine, tension-type headache and other related disorders. The most extensive work has been completed with botulinum toxin A. However, there is still a paucity of well controlled, clinical trials with this agent, and overall there have been conflicting and oftentimes equivocal results: studies of its use in migraine headache have suggested efficacy, whereas those of tension-type headache have not shown significant evidence of efficacy. There were few significant adverse events associated with the use of botulinum toxin A in these trials. The mechanism by which botulinum toxin A may work to prevent headache is not clear. Although changes in muscle tone may play a role in the effect of the drug, central mechanisms such as effects on neuropeptides involved in the pathogenesis of migraine may also be relevant. Further clinical trial work is in progress to help determine optimal administration schedules and choice of injection locations with botulinum toxin A for specific headache disorders. There has been limited study of the use of baclofen, an agent that acts centrally via GABA(A) receptors, in migraine and cluster headache, with only two open trials conducted to date. Both of these studies support the use of baclofen in the preventive treatment of headache.Tizanidine, which may have both a peripheral and a central mechanism in the locus ceruleus in migraine headache, has been studied in several clinical trials. Although the primary mechanism of action of this agent is, like clonidine, as an alpha-adrenoceptor agonist, it has little antihypertensive effect. Open trials of tizanidine have shown it to be useful in chronic headache. One well controlled trial, conducted as a follow-up to an open-label trial in the preventive treatment of chronic daily headache, reported tizanidine as having a statistically significant benefit over placebo. Also of interest is its use in conjunction with a long-acting NSAID to aid in the treatment of rebound headache accompanying the discontinuation of overused acute migraine therapies. In conclusion, though limited, the studies suggest the efficacy of botulinum toxin A, baclofen and tizanidine in primary headache disorders.

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