• Sherif Hanafy MahmoudEmail author


Headache is one of the most common symptoms encountered by healthcare practitioners. Headache disorders are divided into three distinct categories: primary headaches, secondary headaches, and headaches secondary to painful cranial neuropathies. Primary headaches include the ones that are not attributed to another disorder. They include tension-type headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. Secondary headaches are headaches secondary to an organic or psychiatric illness or induced by a substance (or drug) and/or its withdrawal. Assessment of patients presenting with headache requires knowledge of the types of headaches and the abortive and prophylactic agents used for controlling and preventing headache attacks, respectively. Assessment of the history and characteristics of headaches, the presence of any associated symptoms, and the appropriateness of drugs used in headache management is essential. It is very important to determine if the patient’s headache could be caused by an underlying medical condition which could be, in some occasions, life-threatening (red flags). Furthermore, follow-up assessment is recommended for patients with headache. Pharmacists should advise patients especially the ones with frequent headaches to maintain a headache diary detailing their episodes, possible precipitating and ameliorating factors. In addition, assessment of medication overuse headache is recommended.


Headache Acetaminophen NSAIDs Triptans Migraine Tension-type headache Cluster headache Medication overuse headache Primary headaches and secondary headaches 


  1. 1.
    Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (IHS). The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition. Cephalalgia. 2018;38:1–211.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Worthington I, Pringsheim T, Gawel MJ, Gladstone J, Cooper P, Dilli E, et al. Canadian Headache Society Guideline: acute drug therapy for migraine headache. Can J Neurol Sci. 2013;40:S1–S80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Becker WJ, Findlay T, Moga C, Scott NA, Harstall C, Taenzer P. Guideline for primary care management of headache in adults. Can Fam Physician. 2015;61:670–9.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Pringsheim T, Davenport W, Mackie G, Worthington I, Aubé M, Christie SN, et al. Canadian Headache Society guideline for migraine prophylaxis. Can J Neurol Sci. 2012;39:S1–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Alberta, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical SciencesEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations