Tracking the evolution of non-headache symptoms through the migraine attack

J Headache Pain. 2022 Nov 23;23(1):149. doi: 10.1186/s10194-022-01525-6.


Background: The migraine attack is classically divided into the prodromal, aura, headache and postdromal phase. Previous studies have highlighted non-headache symptoms associated with migraine occurring during the prodromal or postdromal phase. This study aimed to track the evolution of non-headache symptoms throughout all phases of the migraine attack. We also wished to delineate the phenotype of patients with more symptomatic migraine episodes and explore the association between non-painful symptoms and migraine disease activity and patients' disability.

Methods: Two-hundred and twenty-five migraine patients were enrolled and were asked to recall retrospectively whether non-headache symptoms occurred during the prodromal, headache and postdromal phase of their attacks. The occurrence of symptoms during the different migraine phases was tested using the Cochran's Q tests, Cohen's and Fleiss' kappa. Differences between groups according to the presence of non-headache symptoms through the entire migraine attack and correlations between the frequency of non-headache symptoms experienced during all phases and patients' disease activity and disability were also assessed.

Results: Ninety-nine percent of patients reported having at least one non-headache symptom in one phase of the migraine attack and 54% of patients had at least one non-headache symptom occurring during all phases of migraine. The occurrence of non-headache symptoms was different throughout the three phases of migraine, being higher during the headache phase than during the prodromal and postdromal phases. Symptoms with the highest co-occurrence throughout all migraine phases were neck stiffness, thirst and abdominal pain. Patients who experienced non-headache symptoms during all three phases of migraine were more frequently females, had a higher disability, were suffering from chronic migraine and had more frequently medication overuse headache.

Conclusion: Migraine is a complex neurological disorder with a wide constellation of non-headache symptoms that can affect the burden of the disease. A better characterization of the evolution of non-headache symptoms through the different phases of migraine can enrich our knowledge on migraine pathophysiology and improve the management of the disease.

Keywords: Clinical phenotype; Disability; Migraine; Non-headache symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Epilepsy* / complications
  • Female
  • Headache / complications
  • Headache Disorders, Secondary*
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders* / complications
  • Migraine Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Migraine Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies