A vascular-supraspinal-myogenic (VSM) model for pain in migraine based on our previous clinical and pathophysiological observations is proposed. According to the model, perceived pain (headache) intensity is determined by the sum of nociception from cephalic arteries and pericranial myofascial tissues converging upon the same neurons and integrated with supraspinal effects (usually facilitating). Vascular input predominates over myofascial input in migraine, whereas significance of supraspinal facilitation is difficult to estimate. The importance of these 3 effects may vary between patients and in the same individual with time. The model is in accordance with recent experimental studies showing convergence of somatovisceral afferents upon n. caudalis neurons. Also, long term potentiation due to nociceptive activation and sensitization of neurons to input from wider areas and non-nociceptive stimuli are relevant to our model.
In tension-type headache, nociception is primarily myofascial, but vascular input cannot be disregarded. Supraspinal facilitation probably plays a large, sometimes dominant role (the MSV model).
The model explains much of the complexity of the clinical picture of these disorders as well as their tendency to overlap and to change into one another. Also, a number of pathophysiological observations such as why muscles are tender during migraine, why trigger-point injection may cure migraine attacks and why chronic tension-type headache is often associated with episodes of pulsating pain, can be explained. The model gives a rational explanation of empirically developed, internationally accepted, multimodal treatment strategies for migraine and tension-type headache. It may thus serve a useful purpose in explaining the disorder to patients. Finally, the model points to several avenues of future research in animals and man.