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Cephalalgia. 2004 Jan;24(1):29-36.

Physiotherapy for tension-type headache: a controlled study.

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Headache Centre, Unit of Neurology, Department of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Strada del Quartiere 4, 43100 Parma, Italy.


The role of non-pharmacological therapies in the preventive treatment of tension-type headache (TTH) is still an object of debate. The primary aim of this study was therefore to investigate the therapeutic effect of physiotherapy in properly classified patients with TTH in a controlled trial. Fifty patients with TTH, 26 with episodic, frequent (ETTH) and 24 with chronic TTH (CTTH) fulfilling the International Headache Society classification criteria were included in the study. After a 4-week run-in period, they were randomized to either an 8-week period of standardized physiotherapy (group 1) or to an 8-week observation period followed by an identical course of physiotherapy (group 2); after the physiotherapy all patients were followed for a 12-week follow-up period. We then evaluated the number of days with headache, severity and duration of the headache attacks, and drug consumption for symptomatic treatment before and after the course of physiotherapy. Forty-eight patients completed the study. The average number of days with headache per 4-week period was reduced from 16.3 days at baseline to 12.3 days in the last 4 weeks of treatment [from 14.5 days to 10.5 days (P < 0.001) in group 1 and from 18.1 days to 14.1 days (P < 0.001) in group 2]. Severity and duration of headache as well as drug consumption were unchanged throughout the study. Analysing the response to treatment separately in the various subgroups, we found that the number of responders was significantly higher among patients with CTTH vs. patients with ETTH (P < 0.002) and in females vs. males (P < 0.02). No differences were found between patients with and without disorder of pericranial muscles. We conclude that a standardized physiotherapy programme has a good therapeutic effect, albeit on a restricted group of patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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