The subjective component of headache pain has been neglected in headache research. In this study of 65 chronic headache sufferers, assessment of the subjective component was amplified using the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ) as well as headache diaries. The overall level of pain experienced was as high as that previously reported for cancer and phantom-limb patients. Assessment of sensory pain qualities (MPQ) revealed differences between tension and migraine headache types; tension headaches were felt to be “tight”, while migraines were experienced as “sharp”, “blinding”, “nauseating” and “sickening”. The results thus support a dichotomous rather than a continuum model of headache.
The relationship between the subjective experience of headache and mood (Wakefield Depression Scale) and personality (EPQ) was examined. Pain intensity and affective reactions to pain were associated with general mood state; however, no subjective measures correlated with personality indices.
It was argued that the MPQ provided valuable additional information to be used with headache diaries, particularly in the assessment of sensory qualities and affective reactions to pain.