The Significance of Pain Drawing as a Screening Tool for Cervicogenic Headache and Associated Symptoms in Chronic Fatigue

J Pain Res. 2022 Aug 27:15:2547-2556. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S369470. eCollection 2022.


Purpose: Patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) present with a broad spectrum of symptoms, including headache. A simple, yet powerful tool - the pain drawing identifies essential aspects such as pain distribution. The aim with this study was to 1) evaluate the significance of pain drawing as a screening tool for cervicogenic headache using a predefined C2 pain pattern, 2) assess whether there was an association between dizziness/imbalance and a C2 pain pattern, and 3) compare subgroups according to the pain drawing with respect to pain characteristics and quality of life.

Patients and methods: Pain drawings and clinical data from 275 patients investigated for ME/CFS were stratified into: 1) cervicogenic headache as determined by a C2 pain pattern, 2) headache with no C2 pain pattern, and 3) no headache. For inference logistic regression presented with odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) and Kruskal-Wallis test were applied.

Results: One hundred sixteen participants (42%) were stratified to the group for which the pain drawing corresponded to the C2 pain pattern, thus indicating putative cervicogenic origin of the headache. Dizziness/imbalance was strongly associated with a C2 pain pattern; OR 6.50 ([95% CI 2.42-17.40] p ˂ 0.00), whereas this association was non-significant for patients with headache and no C2 pain pattern. Those demonstrating a C2 pain pattern reported significantly higher pain intensity (p = 0.00) and greater pain extent (p = 0.00) than the other groups, and lower health-related quality of life (p = 0.00) than the group with no headache.

Conclusion: For patients with chronic fatigue who present with a C2 pain pattern (interpreted as cervicogenic headache) the pain drawing seems applicable as a screening tool for signs associated with neuropathic and more severe pain, dizziness and reduced quality of life as detection of these symptoms is essential for targeted treatment.

Keywords: chronic pain; primary health care; questionnaire; spine; symptom assessment.