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Effectiveness of Physical Therapy in Patients with Tension-type Headache: Literature Review


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Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment,Fascial

J Jpn Phys Ther Assoc. 2014;17(1):31-38.doi: 10.1298/jjpta.Vol17_005.


Gemma Victoria Espí-López, Anna Arnal-Gómez, Teresa Arbós-Berenguer, Ángel Arturo López González, Teófila Vicente-Herrero


Background: Tension-type headache (TTH) is a disease with a great incidence on quality of life and with a significant socioeconomic impact.

Objectives: The aim of this review is to determine the effectiveness of physical therapy by using manual therapy (MT) for the relief of TTH.

Data sources: A review was done identifying randomized controlled trials through searches in MEDLINE, PEDro, Cochrane and CINAHL (January 2002 - April 2012).

Study selection: English-language studies, with adult patients and number of subjects not under 11, diagnosed with episodic tension-type headache (ETTH) and chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) were included.

Data extraction: Initial search was undertaken with the words Effectiveness, Tension-type headache, and Manual therapy (39 studies). In addition, a search which included terms related to treatments such as physiotherapy, physical therapy, spinal manipulation was performed (25 studies).

Results: From the two searches 9 studies met the inclusion criteria and were analysed finding statistically significant results: 1) myofascial release, cervical traction, neck muscles trigger points in cervical thoracic muscles and stretching; 2) Superficial heat and massage, connective tissue manipulation and vertebral Cyriax mobilization; 3) cervical or thoracic spinal manipulation and cervical chin-occipital manual traction; 4) massage, progressive relaxation and gentle stretching, program of active exercises of shoulder, neck and pericranial muscles; 5) massage, passive rhythmic mobilization techniques, cervical, thoracic and lumbopelvic postural correction and cranio-cervical exercises; 6) progressive muscular relaxation combined with joint mobilization, functional, muscle energy, and strain/counterstrain techniques, and cranial osteopathic treatment; 7) massage focused on relieving myofascial trigger point activity; 8) pressure release and muscle energy in suboccipital muscles; 9) combination of mobilizations of the cervical and thoracic spine, exercises and postural correction. All studies used a combination of different techniques and none analyzed treatments separately, also all the studies have assessed aspects related to TTH beyond frequency and intensity of pain.

Conclusions: The findings from these studies showed evidence that physiotherapy with articulatory MT, combined with cervical muscle stretching and massage are effective for this disease in different aspects related with TTH. No evidence was found of the effectiveness of the techniques applied separately.

Publication Date: 

2014 Jan



Espí-lópez, VG., Arnal-gómez, A., Arbós-berenguer, T., González, LAÁ., Vicente-herrero, T. (2014) 'Effectiveness of Physical Therapy in Patients with Tension-type Headache: Literature Review ', J Jpn Phys Ther Assoc. 2014;17(1):31-38.doi: 10.1298/jjpta.Vol17_005.

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