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There are few people who do not get a headache at some time in their life. This is a common neurological disorder that is estimated to be the reason for one-fifth of all UK outpatient referrals.

Frequent and chronic headaches can be particularly difficult to cope with, causing problems with work, activities, family and quality of life in general.

Diagnosing your headache

No one has ‘just a headache’. Many different specific types of headaches are recognised and these are classified by a body of experts set up just to complete this task.

The number of different types of headache that are recognised is surprising. The first step if you come to one of the consultants at The London Clinic who specialise in headaches is to obtain a detailed diagnosis.

This will involve taking a full medical history and asking you to keep a diary of your headaches for about a month, sometimes longer. This will reveal the frequency and severity of the headaches, the impact that they have on your life, and help us to distinguish what type of headache you have.

One of the most common severe headaches that we treat is migraine. Around 50% of our patients experience acute migraines and a proportion of these have chronic migraine, which is defined as a migraine-like headache on at least 15 days in any one month.

Avoiding medication overuse

Migraine does not respond well to over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. There is a danger of overdose, but there is also a high risk of overuse. Taking such painkillers regularly, or in anticipation of a migraine, will cause a rebound effect in many people. The result is an almost constant headache that is fed by taking more painkillers in a vicious cycle.

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