Management of primary chronic headache in the general population: the Akershus study of chronic headache

J Headache Pain. 2012 Mar;13(2):113-20. doi: 10.1007/s10194-011-0391-8. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Primary chronic headaches cause more disability and necessitate high utilisation of health care. Our knowledge is based on selected populations, while information from the general population is largely lacking. An age and gender-stratified cross-sectional epidemiological survey included 30,000 persons aged 30-44 years. Respondents with self-reported chronic headache were interviewed by physicians. The International Classification of Headache Disorders was used. Of all primary chronic headache sufferers, 80% had consulted their general practitioner (GP), of these 19% had also consulted a neurologist and 4% had been hospitalised. Co-occurrence of migraine increased the probability of contact with a physician. A high Severity of Dependence Scale score increased the probability for contact with a physician. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) was used by 62%, most often physiotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic. Contact with a physician increased the probability of use of CAM. Acute headache medications were taken by 87%, while only 3% used prophylactic medication. GPs manage the majority of those with primary chronic headache, 1/5 never consults a physician for their headache, while approximately 1/5 is referred to a neurologist or hospitalised. Acute headache medication was frequently overused, while prophylactic medication was rarely used. Thus, avoidance of acute headache medication overuse and increased use of prophylactic medication may improve the management of primary chronic headaches in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Headache Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Headache Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Analgesics