The ‘Triptans’, Tension Headache, Blood Vessels and Migraine

June 20, 2009 by dean · Leave a Comment 

The ‘triptans’ are a group of medications developed specifically to prevent migraine attacks. Just how they do this has been debated for some time. Initially it was thought that the ‘triptans’ constricted the blood vessels, but research has shown clearly that dilatation of blood vessels is not consistently present during a migraine attack.

It has been demonstrated the ‘triptans’ desensitise the brainstem – perhaps it is this which prevents a migraine attack. This is supported by research which shows that the ‘triptans’ are effective in relieving tension headache and that the brainstems in tension headache are sensitised …. as they are in migraine.



(Brennum J, Kjeldsen M, Olesen J. The 5-HT1-like agonist sumatriptan has a significant effect in chronic tension-type headache. Cephalalgia 1992;12(6):375-379

Cady RK, Gutterman D, Saiers JA, Beach ME. Responsiveness of non-IHS migraine and tension-type headache to sumatriptan. Cephalalgia 1997;17(5):588-590

Hoskin KL, Kaube H, Goadsby PJ. Sumatriptan can inhibit trigeminal afferents by an exclusively neural mechanism. Brain 1996; 119:1419-28

Lipton RB, Walter FS, Cady R, Hall C, O’Quinn S, Kuhn T, Gutterman D. Sumatriptan for the Range of Headaches in Migraine Sufferers: Results of the Spectrum Study. Headache 2000;40(10);783-791

Milanov I, Bogdanova D. Trigemino-cervical reflex in patients with headache. Cephalalgia 2003; 23:35-38

Nardone R, Tezzon F. The trigemino-cervical reflex in tension-type headache. European Journal of Neurology 2003; 10(3):307-312

Tegeler CH, Davidai G, Gengo FM, Knappertz VA,Troost BT, Gabriel H, Davis RL. Middle cerebral artery velocity correlates with nitroglcerin-induced headache onset. J Neuroimaging 1996; 6(2): 81-6

Thomsen LL, Iverson HK, Olesen J. Cerebral bloodflow velocities are reduced during attacks of unilateral migraine without aura. Cephalalgia 1995; 15(2): 109-116)

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About dean
Consultant Headache & Migraine Physiotherapist; International Teacher; Director, The Headache Clinic & Watson Headache Institute; PhD Candidate Murdoch University, Western Australia; Adjunct Lecturer, Masters Program, Physiotherapy School, University of South Australia; MAppSc(Res) GradDipAdvManipTher Experienced health practitioners trained in the Watson Headache Approach perform the examination and treatment techniques developed by Dean Watson. These techniques are based on his extensive experience of 7000 headache patients (21,000 hours) over 21 years and are now taught internationally. For your nearest practitioner who has completed training in the ‘Watson Headache Approach’ please refer to the ‘Practitioner Directory’.

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