Effectiveness of physiotherapy interventions on headache intensity, frequency, duration and quality of life of patients with tension-type headache. A systematic review and network meta-analysis

Andres Jung, Robert Christopher Eschke, Julia Struss, Wiebke Taucher, Kerstin Luedtke*

*Corresponding author for this work
2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: This systematic review assesses the effectiveness of physiotherapy on headache parameters and quality of life of patients with tension-type headache using network meta-analysis. Methods: A systematic search was conducted in the databases Web of Science, Medline, Cochrane Library and Physiotherapy Evidence Database up to August 2021. Randomised controlled trials investigating the effect of physiotherapy on tension-type headache were included. Risk of bias assessment was performed using the Risk of bias tool 2.0. Results were presented according to the Cochrane handbook and the PRISMA statement. Results: Twenty reports were eligible and 15 were included in network meta-analysis for pain intensity and frequency. Transcutaneous electrical stimulation combined with physiotherapy was the most effective approach to reduce pain intensity compared to control (mean difference (MD): −4.18, moderate confidence) and usual care (MD: −3.8, moderate confidence) Manual therapy (joint mobilisation) plus exercise was the most effective intervention to reduce headache frequency compared to control (MD: −13.03, low confidence) and usual care (MD: −13.95, moderate confidence). Conclusion: Results suggest a combination of passive physiotherapy techniques with exercise and/or transcutaneous electrical stimulation as the most effective physiotherapy intervention to reduce pain intensity and frequency in the short term. More research is needed to investigate mid-term and long-term effects. Trial registration: This review was prospectively registered in www.aspredicted.org under the registration number #46098 and an updated protocol was registered in the Open Science Framework (OSF) with the registration DOI: https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/RVUEY.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)944-965
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 08.2022

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