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Expert Rev Neurother. 2013 Sep;13(9):1031-9. doi: 10.1586/14737175.2013.827475. Epub 2013 Aug 16.

Primary headaches and trigeminal neuralgia: neuropathic pain yes or not? Evidences from neurophysiological procedures.

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Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neurophysiopathology of Pain, Neuroscience and Sensory System (SMBNOS) Bari Aldo Moro University, Bari, Italy.


Despite the fact that neurophysiological evaluation is not useful for primary headache diagnosis, the nociceptive system exploration through reflexes and evoked potentials procedures may give an aid in understanding the pathophysiological mechanism subtending pain. Neuropathic pain is caused by a lesion or disease of the somatosensory nervous system, which is supported by clinical evaluation and instrumental assessment by trigeminal and nociceptive reflexes and laser evoked potentials. The same methods, applied to migraine and cluster headache, together with evidences coming from structural and functional neuroimaging, excluded the neuropathic origin of pain, which is attaining to symptomatic and idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia, but confirmed a complex dysfunction of pain processing. Tension-type headache fits with a model of non-nociceptive and non-neuropathic pain, subtended by a complex interaction of peripheral muscular and central neuronal factors. The presence of altered modulation of pain concurs with migraine and tension-type headache, and should be taken into account for the choice of the best therapeutic approach.

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