Sustained exposure to acute migraine medications combined with repeated noxious stimulation dysregulates descending pain modulatory circuits: Relevance to medication overuse headache

Kelsey M. Nation, David W. Dodick, Edita Navratilova, Frank Porreca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Background: Loss of conditioned pain modulation/diffuse noxious inhibitory controls has been demonstrated in patients with migraine and medication overuse headache. We hypothesized that exposure to acute migraine medications may lead to dysregulation of central pain modulatory circuits that could be revealed by evaluating diffuse noxious inhibitory controls and that prior noxious stimulus is required for a loss of the diffuse noxious inhibitory control response in rats exposed to these medications. Methods: Rats were “primed” by continuous infusion of morphine or one of two doses of sumatriptan. Diffuse noxious inhibitory control was evaluated at the end of drug-priming (day 7) and again after sensory thresholds returned to baseline (day 21). The Randall-Selitto hindpaw pressure test was used as the test stimulus and forepaw capsaicin injection served as the conditioning stimulus. Results: Morphine-primed rats showed opioid-induced hyperalgesia accompanied by a loss of diffuse noxious inhibitory controls on day 7. Sumatriptan-primed rats did not develop hyperalgesia or loss of diffuse noxious inhibitory controls on day 7. Morphine-primed and high-dose sumatriptan-primed rats only had a loss of diffuse noxious inhibitory control on day 21 if they received a capsaicin injection on day 7. Conclusions: Prolonged exposure to migraine treatments followed by an acute nociceptive stimulation caused long-lasting alterations in descending pain modulation, shown by a loss of diffuse noxious inhibitory controls. Morphine was more detrimental than sumatriptan, consistent with clinical observations of higher medication overuse headache risk with opioids. These data suggest a mechanism of medication overuse headache by which migraine medications combined with repeated episodes of pain may amplify the consequences of nociceptor activation and increase the probability of future migraine attacks as well as risk of medication overuse headache.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-625
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019



  • Conditioned pain modulation
  • diffuse noxious inhibitory controls
  • hyperalgesic priming
  • morphine
  • opioid induced hyperalgesia
  • sumatriptan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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