Episodic vs. Chronic Migraine

Episodic vs. Chronic Migraine

Migraine can either be categorized as Episodic or Chronic, depending on the frequency and regularity of symptoms. Read on to learn how to distinguish between these two types of migraine:


Episodic migraine simply means that the migraine attacks come and go. They do not occur daily, nor do they occur more often than 15 days in a given month. 

Episodic migraine attacks can last from 4-72 hours, and episodic migraine sufferers experience several pain free days between attacks. 


Chronic migraine is defined by the International Headache Society as experiencing migraine symptoms on 15 or more days per month for 3 consecutive months, with at least 8 of those days requiring migraine specific-treatment or fulfilling the criteria for migraine with or without aura, and without being attributed to another causative disorder. ​

When migraine attacks become more frequent with less pain free days in between, this can indicate the condition is progressing from episodic to chronic (“transformed”) migraine. 


It is important to note that overuse of medications, even over-the-counter ones, can cause episodic migraine to transform to chronic migraine. Frequent use of medication can make the brain and body more susceptible to migraine triggers and less resistant.

A Headache Specialist can work with you to determine if you are at risk of this type of transformation to chronic migraine, and can help you find ways to avoid it. If you have already progressed to chronic migraine, there are several therapies, both behavioral and pharmaceutical, that are clinically proven to increase the number of pain free days per month.

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