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Muscular Factors are of Importance in Tension-Type Headache


Address all correspondence to Dr. Rigmor Jensen, Kongsbjergvej 6, DK-2630 Virum, Denmark.


Recent studies have indicated that muscular disorders may be of importance for the development of increased pain sensitivity in patients with chronic tension-type headache. The objective of the present study was to investigate this hypothesis by examining the pain perception in tension-type headache with and without muscular disorders defined as increased tenderness. We examined 28 patients with episodic tension-type headache, 28 patients with chronic tension-type headache, and 30 healthy controls. Pericranial myofascial tenderness was recorded with manual palpation, and pressure pain detection and tolerances in cephalic and extracephalic locations with an electronic pressure algometer. In addition, thermal pain sensitivity and electromyographic activity were recorded. The main result was significantly lower pressure pain detection thresholds and tolerances in all the examined locations in patients with chronic tension-type headache with a muscular disorder compared to those without a muscular disorder. There were no such differences in any of the examined locations when the two subgroups of patients with episodic tension-type headache were compared. Thermal pain sensitivity did not differ between patients with and without a muscular disorder, while electromyographic activity levels were significantly higher in patients with chronic tension-type headache with than in those without a muscular disorder. Our results strongly indicate that prolonged nociceptive stimuli from the pericranial myofascial tissue sensitize the central nervous system and, thereby, lead to an increased general pain sensitivity. Muscular factors may, therefore, be of major importance for the conversion of episodic into chronic tension-type headache. The present study complements the understanding of the important interactions between peripheral and central factors in tension-type headache and may lead to a better prevention and treatment of the most prevalent type of headache.