Chronic Migraine Patients More Likely to Have Fibromyalgia than Those with Tension Headaches, Study Finds

Chronic Migraine Patients More Likely to Have Fibromyalgia than Those with Tension Headaches, Study Finds

Patients with chronic migraines have a higher prevalence of fibromyalgia compared to people who get chronic tension headaches, new research shows.

The study reporting the findings is titled “Fibromyalgia Among Patients With Chronic Migraine and Chronic Tension-Type Headache: A Multicenter Prospective Cross-Sectional Study,” and was published in the journal Headache.

Previous studies have shown that fibromyalgia is a frequent comorbidity in people with chronic headache disorders, with frequencies ranging from 11.7% to 22.2%. And the prevalence of fibromyalgia in patients with tension-type headaches (TTH) has been reported to be between 35.1% and 59%.

People with both fibromyalgia and chronic headaches tend to have more frequent headaches, increased pericranial tenderness, reduced physical performance, and greater sleep disturbance. As these factors can severely affect a patient’s quality of life, the proper diagnosis and management of fibromyalgia in these patients is important.

Until now, most studies that looked at the association between headaches and fibromyalgia were conducted based on older criteria for fibromyalgia. But diagnostic information regarding fibromyalgia has changed based on the revised 2010 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Diagnostic Criteria for Fibromyalgia.

South Korean researchers set out to study the association between fibromyalgia and two types of common headaches: chronic migraines (CM) and chronic tension-type headaches (CTTH).

Researchers investigated pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia among people with CM and CTTH, the frequency of fibromyalgia diagnosis, and the clinical presentation of chronic headaches in the presence of fibromyalgia. The team assessed data collected from 136 patients with CM and 35 patients with CTTH from four university hospitals in South Korea.

Results showed that the frequency of fibromyalgia was 66.9% in chronic migraine patients and 25.7% among those with CTTH, showing that the presence of fibromyalgia is significantly higher in people who get chronic migraines compared to those who get chronic tension headaches. In fact, chronic migraine patients had a 3.6 times higher risk of developing fibromyalgia than patients with CTTH.

Researchers also assessed the quality of life of patients using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, which showed that chronic migraine patients with fibromyalgia had worse scores compared to CTTH patients.

In addition, more cases of anxiety, depression, and insomnia were reported among patients with both CM and fibromyalgia compared to those with chronic migraine alone. This observation was not seen in patients with fibromyalgia and CTTH.

Given the high frequency of fibromyalgia among patients with chronic migraine, the team suggested that it may be due to certain shared disease mechanisms among the two disorders, suggesting that one event could lead to the development of both disorders.

“Our findings indicate that [fibromyalgia] is prevalent among patients with chronic headache, especially in patients with CM,” the researchers wrote.

“Comorbidity of [fibromyalgia] is associated with increased risk of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, suggesting that thorough evaluation for fibromyalgia may be helpful in providing a more comprehensive approach to the management of chronic headache,” they added.