The classification subcommittee of the International Headache Society (IHS) has recently suggested revised criteria for medication overuse headache (MOH) and chronic migraine (CM). We field tested these revised criteria by applying them to the headache population at the Danish Headache Centre and compared the results with those using the current criteria. For CM we also tested two alternative criteria, one requiring > or = 4 migraine days/month and > or = 15 headache days/month, the second requiring > or = 15 headache days/month and > or = 50% migraine days. We included 969 patients with migraine or tension-type headache (TTH) among 1326 patients treated and dismissed in a 2-year period. Two hundred and eighty-five patients (30%) had TTH, 265 (27%) had migraine and 419 (43%) had mixed migraine and TTH. The current criteria for MOH classified 86 patients (9%) as MOH, 98 (10%) as probable MOH and 785 (81%) as not having MOH after a 2-month drug-free period. Using the appendix criteria, 284 patients (29%) were now classified as MOH, no patients as probable MOH and 685 (71%) as not having MOH. For CM only 16 patients (3%) fulfilled the current diagnostic criteria. This increased to 42 patients (7%) when we applied the appendix criteria. Using the less restrictive criteria of > or = 4 migraine days and > or = 15 headache days, 88 patients (14%) had CM, whereas the more restrictive criteria of > or = 15 headache days and > or = 50% migraine days resulted in 24 patients (4%) with CM. Our data suggest that the IHS has succeeded in choosing new criteria for CM which are neither too strict, nor too loose. For MOH, a shift to the appendix criteria will increase the number of MOH patients, but take into account the possibility of permanent changes in pain perception due to medication overuse and the possibility of a renewed effect of prophylactic drugs due to medication withdrawal. We therefore recommend the implementation of the appendix criteria for both MOH and CM into the main body of the International Classification of Headache Disorders.