• tension-type headache;
  • electromyography;
  • mental load;
  • visual analog scale;
  • chronic pain;
  • tension;
  • fatigue

Twenty patients with tension-type headache (14 chronic and 6 episodic) and 20 group-matched controls were selected for this study. They participated in a 1-hour, complex, two-choice, reaction-time test, as well as 5-minute pretest and 20-minute posttest periods. Subjects reported any pain in the forehead, temples, neck, and shoulders, as well as any feelings of fatigue and tension during the pretest, and every 10 minutes during the test and posttest by visual analog scales. Superficial electromyography was recorded simultaneously from positions representing the frontal and temporal muscles, neck (mostly splenius), and trapezius muscles. The location of pain corresponded to the position of the electrodes, but extended over a larger area. The test provoked pain in the forehead, neck, and shoulders of patients, ie, pain scores from these regions increased significantly during the test. The pain scores continued to increase posttest. In patients, the EMG response of the trapezius (first 10 minutes of the test) was elevated relative to pretest. In controls, only the frontal muscles showed an EMG test response. Patients showed significantly higher EMG responses than controls in the neck (whole test period) and trapezius (first 10 minutes of the test period).

There were significant differences in pain and fatigue scoring between patients and controls in all three periods and in tension scoring posttest. Fatigue correlated with pain, with increasing significance for all locations examined, while tension was mainly associated with the neck pain. The meaning of the variables “tension” and “fatigue” in headache, and their association with recorded muscle activity in various regions is discussed. The EMG response of the trapezius muscle to the test is discussed in comparison with similar responses observed in patients with other pain syndromes.