A recent Danish study has found 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.

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 had frequent tension-type headaches.

“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.

National Headache Foundation member Merle Diamond, MD, who was not part of the study, commented on 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. It’s great that we have them but having a good physical response doing some of your own work on this can be helpful,” said Dr. Diamond.

National Headache Foundation
June 26, 2015

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