Premonitory symptoms in migraine: A cross-sectional study in 2714 persons

Cephalalgia. 2016 Sep;36(10):951-9. doi: 10.1177/0333102415620251. Epub 2015 Dec 6.


Aim: To describe the frequency and number of premonitory symptoms (PS) in migraine, the co-occurrence of different PS, and their association with migraine-related factors.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, a validated questionnaire was sent to Finnish migraine families between 2002 and 2013 to obtain data on 14 predefined PS, migraine diagnoses, demographic factors, and migraine characteristics. The estimated response rate was 80%.

Results: Out of 2714 persons, 2223 were diagnosed with migraine. Among these, 77% reported PS, with a mean number of 3.0 symptoms compared to 30% (p < 0.001) and 0.5 symptoms (p < 0.001) among 491 persons with non-migraine headaches. Yawning was the most commonly reported symptom (34%) among migraineurs. Females reported PS more frequently than males (81 versus 64%, p < 0.001) and experienced a higher number of different symptoms (mean 3.3 versus 1.8, p < 0.001). All measures of migraine severity were associated with a higher burden of PS. Light and sound sensitivity showed the highest co-occurrence (kappa = 0.51, 95% CI 0.47-0.55). In a generalized linear model, age, gender, higher frequency, duration and intensity of headache, reduced working capacity, most aura symptoms, and associated symptoms of the headache phase were significantly associated with an increased in the number of PS.

Conclusion: PS are experienced by a majority of migraineurs. More severe migraine is associated with a higher burden of PS. Since the material was not entirely representative of the general population of migraineurs, caution should be exercised in generalizing the results.

Keywords: Headache; aura; migraine; premonitory symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lethargy / diagnosis*
  • Lethargy / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Yawning* / physiology
  • Young Adult