Migraine with active headache may predict other painful physical symptoms in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), according to a study published in PLoS ONE.

A total of 155 outpatients with MDD were enrolled in this study; 101 completed 2-year follow-up and were assessed for the presence of migraine at baseline based on the International Classification of Headache Disorders criteria. Pain in the head, bone, and/or joints, back, chest, abdomen, neck and/or shoulder, general muscle, and limb in the past week was evaluated with a 0 to 10 visual analog scale (VAS).

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Active headache was defined as a VAS score >3. Multiple linear regression analyses were used to determine the associations between the occurrence of migraine at baseline and the presence of painful physical symptoms at follow-up.

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Patients with migraine and active headache reported higher levels of pain intensity for other physical symptoms and a lower remission rate of depression compared with participants with migraine and inactive headache or with no migraine; the last 2 groups reported comparable pain intensities for other painful physical symptoms.

Headache intensity was found to be correlated with pain levels of other painful symptoms, both at baseline and follow-up. In addition, migraine with active headache was found to be an independent predictor of other painful physical symptoms after controlling for depression and anxiety at baseline.

“Prevention and treatment of headache might be helpful in terms of decreasing other [painful physical symptoms], which may in turn improve the prognosis of MDD,” the researchers noted.


Hung C, Liu C, Yang C, Wang S. Migraine with active headache was associated with other painful physical symptoms at two-year follow-up among patients with major depressive disorder [published online April 30, 2019]. PLoS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0216108

This article originally appeared on Clinical Pain Advisor