Chronic migraine or something else?

Do you have headache pain every day?

Can you remember the exact day the pain started?

There is another primary headache disorder that mimics the symptoms of Chronic Migraine. It’s called New Daily Persistent Headache, often referred to as NDPH. One of the unique characteristics is that most patients can recall the exact day on which their pain began. The headache pain of NDPH can include symptoms consistent with either migraine or tension-type headache, or both. From the first onset, pain is constant. NDPH is usually diagnosed after extensive testing to rule out other causes, such as a cerebrospinal fluid leak, high spinal fluid pressure pressure, infectious disease, blood clots, or post-trauma headache. Other primary headache disorders must be ruled out, too.

Chronic migraine

NDPH differs from chronic migraine in that the headache pain is daily from the very beginning. Chronic migraine develops gradually, with symptom frequency increasing over time.

Chronic tension-type headache

While sometimes the pain of NDPH can feel like a tension-type headache, it can just as often feel like a migraine attack. Like Chronic migraine, Chronic TTH develops over time with a gradual increase in frequency and severity. NDPH is daily from the start.

Hemicrania continua

NDPH does not include the autonomic symptoms characteristic of hemicrania continua. There is no tearing, eye redness or swelling, nasal congestion or rhinorrhea.

Medication overuse headache

MOH develops after 3+ consecutive months of using pain medications more than 2-3 times per week. Because NDPH starts with a daily headache, there is no history of medication overuse with a gradual worsening of symptoms. However, patients with NDPH may inadvertently overuse medication prior to seeking medical treatment. If this is the case, a good headache specialist will treat both MOH and NDPH.

Treatment

There is no treatment specifically recommended for NDPH. More often, it is treated with many of the same medications as Chronic migraine or Chronic TTH. It can be difficult for patients to accept that no cause can be found. About half the time, NDPH starts after and illness or injury. Patients can spend a lot of time questioning the diagnosis and worrying that the cause was missed. Dr. Young shares his wisdom regarding NDPH,

“But after the investigation is complete and the diagnosis is made; then it is time to stop endless investigation and treat. I say this because I have seen too many patients who are fixated on the why they have this headache, and never seriously gotten down to treatment…Most of all, don’t give up hope. I believe most people with this condition can find a good to excellent treatment that leads to a vastly improved quality of life.”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (IHS). The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition (beta version). Cephalgia. 2013; 33(9) 679.
  2. Young, William B., MD, NDPH: What is it? ACHEnet.org, retrieved online at http://www.achenet.org/news/ndph_what_is_this/.

Comments

View Comments (4)
  • Karen
    3 years ago

    Is there any point in distinguishing between NDPH vs Chronic Migraine? Based on your descriptions I think it is more likely than not that I have NDPH but I am on my 3rd neurologist since my surgery that I feel triggered it all 5 years ago. After daily headaches I have finally found relief in the last six months or so. Just wondering if it worth bringing up to my neurologist?

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    I think it’s always important to have an accurate diagnosis. Even if the treatment is the same now, that doesn’t mean it will always be the same. As new discoveries are made, there will be changes in the way NDPH is treated. There is a vast difference between the onset of chronic migraine and the onset of NDPH that could mean the ultimate difference in how both are treated.

    Happy to hear that you are finally getting relief. May it continue!

  • Kate
    3 years ago

    Great article! I unfortunately have NDPH (10 years now). I think eventually there will be at least several diagnoses for what we now call NDPH. Its definitely really important to rule out everything else that can be ruled out; too often we hear of folks who had their headache called NDPH for years which later found it had a more treatable cause. Thankfully I did eventually find some treatments that help. Best wishes.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    Happy to hear that you have working treatments and that you are getting good care. Even though we are “Migraine.com” we like to share information about the many migraine look-alikes so that patients are informed.

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