Postural control impairment in patients with headaches—A systematic review and meta-analysis

Gabriela F. Carvalho*, Alena R. Becnel, Carolin Miske, Tibor M. Szikszay, Waclaw M. Adamczyk, Kerstin Luedtke

*Corresponding author for this work
5 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To summarize the evidence regarding static and dynamic balance alterations among patients with headache. Methods: Electronic databases (PubMed, CINAHL, and Web of Science) were searched by two researchers independently up to September 2021. Two reviewers selected eligible studies, extracted the data, and assessed the quality of evidence using the Downs and Black checklist. Case-control studies were included if they involved balance assessment of any kind of headache, including objective outcome measures of dynamic and static tests such as body sway displacement, limits of stability (LOS), gait, and tandem walk tests. A meta-analysis and post hoc sensitivity analyses were performed when possible. Results: Twenty-two studies (1202 patients with headache and 597 controls) were included in this review and 16 of them in the meta-analysis. Risk of bias ranged from low to moderate among all studies. Greater sway area in static posturography was shown by patients with migraine in comparison to controls, with more consistent differences in more challenging test conditions, such as over a foam surface with eyes closed (difference of 4.8 cm2, 95% CI: 3.8–5.9). Lower performance of patients with migraine during the tandem walk test (difference of −7.8 cm/s, 95% CI: −9.0 to −6.5) and slower reaction time in the LOS test (difference of 0.3 s, 95% CI: 0.2–0.4) were also verified. There is no evidence of altered sway velocity and length in static posturography among patients with migraine (p > 0.05). The level of evidence is very low for balance alteration of any kind among patients with tension-type and cervicogenic headache owing to the limited number of studies and high heterogeneity. Conclusion: This review confirmed the presence of static and dynamic balance alterations among patients with migraine. Future studies with low risk of bias are needed to decrease heterogeneity in methodology and explore the role of subdiagnosis on the balance of patients with headache.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)241-270
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 03.2022

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