Refractory migraines – also known as intractable migraines – are chronic migraine headaches that do not respond to standard treatments. To be considered chronic, migraine symptoms must recur for 15 or more days per month. Refractory migraines are those that continue persistently despite aggressive attempts to manage them, including medical, behavioral, and alternative modes of treatment. An intractable migraine patient will find no relief from over-the-counter pain medications, prescription medications, or alternative treatments like massage and acupuncture.
If you experience refractory migraines, you are not alone. Unfortunately, these headaches are estimated to affect as many as 40,000 people in the U.S. alone, with women more likely to develop them than men. But despite the prevalence of refractory migraines, research and treatment options for the condition are still considerably limited. This is due in part to discrepancies in the definition of a refractory headache among doctors, clinicians, and researchers.