Current Treatment Options in Neurology

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 40–55

Current Concepts in Refractory Migraine


DOI: 10.1007/s11940-012-0206-5

Cite this article as:
Schulman, E. & McGeeney, B.E. Curr Treat Options Neurol (2013) 15: 40. doi:10.1007/s11940-012-0206-5

Opinion statement

The Refractory or Intractable Migraine (RM) patient has long been a challenge to all healthcare providers (HCP). Headache specialists have recognized this sub group of patients who remain refractory to treatment. Despite this recognition, there are no formal criteria that characterize RM. This article will attempt to provide treatment approaches, some scientifically based and others that are empiric. A reasonable goal is to lessen disability. Combining the various modalities will improve the chances for successful treatment. The foundation of treatment is an emphasis on wellness. This includes optimizing mood, minimizing stress, practicing good sleep hygiene, and avoiding triggers. All comorbid factors should be addressed, including sleep and mood disorders, chronic neck pain, and obesity. Preventive treatment is necessary in the majority of patients, and a plan for “rescue” approaches is essential. Avoiding medication overuse, particularly narcotics, is advisable. Additional options for treatment include onabotulinumtoxinA, and more invasive modalities, such as neurostimulation. Adjunct treatment including supplements and relaxation may also be considered. Keeping a headache calendar is almost mandatory in management with attention to particular headache triggers, patterns and medication overuse (MOH). A trusting physician–patient relationship is also very important and will enhance compliance and foster communication. Patients often lapse from the management plan and the treating physician should be open minded about continuing care. RM is a long-term disease and requires close physician–patient interaction and cooperation for management of the problem. In those RM patients with multiple comorbidities, a multidisciplinary team should optimize management.


RefractoryMigraineIntractableClassificationDefinitionNeurostimulationSupplementsSleep disordersDepressionAnxietyRisk factorsAbortiveProphylaxisDopamine antagonistsOpioidsAnticonvulsantsNerve blocksTreatment

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lankenau Medical Center and Lankenau Institute for Medical ResearchWynnewoodUSA
  2. 2.NeurologyBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA