Physical Therapist Interventions to Reduce Headache Intensity, Frequency, and Duration in Patients With Cervicogenic Headache: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis

Andres Jung*, Gabriela F. Carvalho, Tibor M. Szikszay, Vera Pawlowsky, Tom Gabler, Kerstin Luedtke

*Corresponding author for this work

Abstract

Objective. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of physical therapist interventions on the intensity, frequency, and duration of headaches, as well as on the quality of life of patients with cervicogenic headache. Methods. The following databases were searched up to October 2022: Physiotherapy Evidence Database, Web of Science, Pubmed, and Cochrane Library. Randomized controlled trials assessing the effect of physical therapist interventions on adults with cervicogenic headache were included. Quality appraisal was conducted using the Cochrane risk of bias 2.0 tool and the Confidence in Network Meta-analysis web app. Synthesis methods were conducted in accordance with the Cochrane Handbook. Results. Of the 28 identified reports, 23 were included in the quantitative synthesis. Manipulation plus dry needling was the highest-ranked intervention to reduce the short-term headache intensity (mean difference [MD] = -4.87; 95% CI =-8.51 to -1.24) and frequency (MD =-3.09; 95% CI =-4.93 to -1.25) when compared to a control intervention. Other high-ranked and clinically effective interventions (when compared to a control intervention) were muscle–energy technique plus exercise (MD = 4.37; 95% CI = -8.01 to -0.74), as well as soft tissue techniques plus exercise (MD = -3.01; 95% CI= -5.1 to -0.92) to reduce short-term headache intensity, and dry needling plus exercise (MD = -2.92; 95% CI =-4.73 to -1.11) to reduce short-term headache frequency. These results were based on a low certainty of evidence. Conclusion. The 4 most highly ranked interventions can be considered in clinical practice. However, no conclusive recommendation can be made due to the low certainty of evidence. Impact. Combined interventions such as spinal joint manipulation plus dry needling and muscle–energy technique or soft tissue techniques or dry needling plus exercises seem to be the best interventions to reduce short-term cervicogenic headache intensity and/or frequency.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysical Therapy
Volume104
Issue number2
ISSN0031-9023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01.2024

Research Areas and Centers

  • Health Sciences

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-07 Clinical Neurology Neurosurgery and Neuroradiology
  • 206-08 Cognitive and Systemic Human Neuroscience

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