Intended for healthcare professionals


Too frequent use of painkillers can cause rather than cure headaches

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 18 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6281
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Headaches, though common, are not always correctly diagnosed or well treated, says new guidance from the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).1 In a significant minority of cases, painkillers taken to reduce the pain could actually be causing it.

One in every 25 GP consultations is about headache, the guidance says. Sometimes patients who have persistent pain are seeking reassurance that they do not have a brain tumour, but the great majority of headaches are not caused by tumours or by other serious health problems, said Manjit Matharu, honorary …

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