Chronic migraine – What Is It?

Are your migraines episodic or chronic?
Are your migraines episodic or chronic?

We see the term “chronic migraine” a lot. Even I use it frequently. The question is: What exactly do we mean by chronic migraine?

When we classify headaches or migraines based on their frequency, we have two classes: episodic and chronic.

Episodic Migraine

Episodic migraine refers to migraine attacks with headache that occur fewer than 10-15 times a month. Within that range, you can break them down into low-frequency episodic – occurring fewer than 8 times per month, and high-frequency episodic which occur 8-14 times per month.

Chronic Migraine

Chronic migraine refers to migraine attacks with headache occurring more than 15 times per month for a period of 3 months or more. There are some people who experience debilitating migraine attacks on a daily basis.

The lines blur and it is really a continuum. Meaning that someone with high-frequency episodic migraines can have the same level of disability as someone with chronic migraines. It’s also a continuum in the sense that, each year, roughly 2.5% of people progress to chronic migraine each year.

There are many factors that influence the progression to chronic status. Some of these are within our control, such as medication overuse, obesity, stress, depression, caffeine usage, and anxiety. Continued exposure to migraine triggers can also contribute to making them chronic. While other factors – such as genetics, age, female gender, and traumatic brain injury – are not within our control.

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