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Headache. 2005 Sep;45(8):1038-47.

Migraine pain location: a tertiary care study of 1283 migraineurs.

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Headache Center of Atlanta, GA 30342, USA.



This study of headache location in migraine was performed (1) to document the location of pain in a large group of migraine patients and (2) to assess the impact of different types of migraine, gender, aura, and headache features on the location of the headache.


The literature documenting the location of the pain of acute attack of migraine is sparse.


A total of 1283 migraine patients (ICHD, 2004, 1.1, 1.2, 1.5.1, and 1.6) were evaluated at the 1st visit. Headache location and character were graded on a scale of 0 to 3 with 0 being none and 3 the most. Triggers were graded on a frequency scale of 0 to 3; 0 = none; 1 = less than 1/3 of time; 2 = between 1/3 and 2/3 of time; 3 = greater than 2/3 of time. Other headache features and medication responsiveness, were also recorded. Patients were stratified by migraine type and headache frequency. Combined and isolated locations, and the impact of age, gender, headache frequency, migraine types, and aura were addressed. Unremitting headache was excluded.


Migraine patients reported that the highest location frequencies were in the eyes (67.1%), temporal (58.0%), and frontal (55.9%). The lowest were diffusely (17.5%) and vertex (24.1%). The intermediate were in the occipital (39.8%) and neck areas (39.7%). Other migraine types were remarkably similar. Hemi-cranial location was present in 66.6% of patients, 71.2% in episodic migraine and 61.4% in chronic migraine, 67.2% in females and 63.2% in males, 59.7% in migraine without aura and 68.9% in migraine with aura 100% of the time. Headaches were reported on the right side in 27.3%, left side 24.3%, both sides 23.7%, either side 15.0%, and in the middle of the head in 4.6% of cases. Significant differences in headache location were seen only within migraine and not other migraine types. Headache location was not correlated with lifetime duration of migraine, prodrome, response to triptan, intensity, time to peak of headache, recurrence frequency, and time to recurrence.


This study provides a detailed documentation of headache location in a large cohort of patients. The commonest locations are the orbital, frontal, and temporal areas and least common sites being diffuse and the vertex. A single location is infrequent. Hemi-cranial location is present in two thirds of subjects and a quarter each are on the left side, right side, and both sides. The locations of the headache are very similar in different migraine types, but there are some differences. Under age 21 and older patients tended to show some differences in location and side. Location differences are seen with gender, headache frequency, and aura. Location shows many correlations with triggers and headache features.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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