Tension-Type Headache Related to Neck Strength

Individuals who suffer from tension-type headaches may wish to turn to strength training for relief.

A recent Danish study has revealed that compared to a control group, patients who experience tension-type headache have decreased neck strength and also have less shoulder strength. Researchers say that when neck extensor muscles are weak, the flexor muscles over compensate and may pull the head forward, contributing to headache.

The study included 60 patients who had tension-type headache 8 or more days per month and 30 people without headache. Researchers, led by Bjarne H. Madsen, a physiotherapist and PhD student at the Danish Headache Center in Glostrup, Denmark, found that neck and shoulder muscles were as much as 26% weaker in people who experienced frequent tension-type headaches.

In an email to Reuters, Mr. Madsen explained that the findings may lead to improved treatment.

“In order to be able to treat tension-type headache patients non-pharmacologically … It is very important to work towards a further understanding of muscle-skeletal impact on tension-type headaches,” he wrote.

NHF board member Merle Diamond, MD, who was not part of the study, commented on it for Reuters. She noted that neck pain and tenderness frequently occur with tension-type headache, but the reason has not been clear. She suggests that patients work with a physical therapist or trainer to strengthen their core and correct other muscle imbalances.

“If you work on these different pieces, you can probably limit the amount of exposure you need to get from analgesics,” Dr. Diamond said. “It’s great that we have them but having a good physical response doing some of your own work on this can be helpful.”

The study appeared in Cephalagia.

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