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01.12.2014 | Meeting abstract | Sonderheft 1/2014 Open Access

The Journal of Headache and Pain 1/2014

EHMTI-0056. Self-medication of headache: identification of subgroups of patients through cluster analysis

The Journal of Headache and Pain > Sonderheft 1/2014
E Mehuys, K Paemeleire, G Crombez, T Van Hees, T Christiaens, L Van Bortel, I Van Tongelen, JP Remon, K Boussery


We have previously shown that medication overuse is prevalent among individuals self-medicating regular headache.


In this study we evaluated self-medicating headache patients from a broader perspective, exploring the interplay between headache and concomitant pain conditions, pain-related disability and pain medication use. Identification of subgroups of patients could be helpful to tailor intervention strategies.


A hierarchical cluster analysis was used to group 1021 self-medicating headache patients according to their (1) sociodemographics, (2) pain characteristics, (3) pain-related disability and (4) pain medication use. Patients were recruited in 202 Belgian community pharmacies and fulfilled the following inclusion criteria: aged ≥18 years, purchasing an over-the-counter systemic analgesic, experiencing pain ≥1 full day/month and suffering from headache.


Three subgroups were identified. Group 1 comprised patients with low socioeconomic status, low self-rated health, on average four concomitant pain conditions, high pain frequency, high disability, and high rates of medication overuse. Group 2 included older patients with a mean of two other pain syndromes, and low disability but high pain intensity. Group 3 comprised young highly-educated patients diagnosed with migraine, having on average one concomitant pain condition, low pain frequency, low disability but high pain intensity, and low rates of medication overuse.


We have identified three subgroups in a large sample of individuals self-medicating headache. The marked differences across the three groups stress the importance of a holistic assessment of headache patients and the need for tailored strategies to reduce the risk of medication-overuse headache in primary care.
No conflict of interest.
Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( https://​creativecommons.​org/​licenses/​by/​4.​0), which permits use, duplication, adaptation, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
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