Managing headache triggers: Think 'coping' not 'avoidance'

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Abstract

The standard clinical advice for individuals who suffer from recurrent headaches is that the best way to prevent headaches is to avoid the triggers. This editorial challenges that advice from a number of perspectives. First, there is little empirical support for such advice. Second, cognate literatures in the fields of chronic pain, stress and anxiety raise concerns about avoidance as a strategy. Third, studies have demonstrated that short exposure to a headache trigger results in increased sensitivity and prolonged exposure results in decreased sensitivity. Conclusions include that one aetiological pathway to developing a primary headache disorder may be via attempts to avoid triggers resulting in increased sensitivity to triggers. Also, clinicians need to become more flexible in the advice they give pertaining to triggers, namely they should think 'coping with triggers' rather than avoiding all triggers, as avoidance will sometimes be the preferred strategy, but often it will not be.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-637
Number of pages4
JournalCephalalgia
Volume30
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2010

Keywords

  • Avoidance
  • Coping
  • Migraine
  • Tension-type headache
  • Triggers

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