Which Examination Tests Detect Differences in Cervical Musculoskeletal Impairments in People With Migraine? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Tibor M Szikszay, Susann Hoenick, Karolin von Korn, Ruth Meise, Annika Schwarz, Wiebke Starke, Kerstin Luedtke


Background. Most patients with migraine report associated neck pain. Whether neck pain is a symptom of migraine or an indicator for associated cervical musculoskeletal impairment has not yet been determined. Physical examination tests to detect cervical impairments in people with headache have been suggested, but results have not been evaluated systematically and combined in meta-analyses. Purpose. The purpose of this study was to identify musculoskeletal impairments in people with migraine and people who were healthy (healthy controls) by reviewing published data on physical examination results. Data Sources. PubMed, CINAHL, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Register of Clinical Trials were searched for studies published prior to December 2017. Study Selection. Publications investigating physical examination procedures that are feasible for use in a physical therapy setting for patients with migraine and healthy controls were independently selected by 2 researchers. Data Extraction. One researcher extracted the data into predesigned data extraction tables. Entries were checked for correctness by a second researcher. The Downs and Black Scale was used for risk-of-bias assessment by 2 reviewers independently. Data Synthesis. Thirty-five studies (involving 1033 participants who were healthy [healthy controls] and 1371 participants with migraine) were included in the qualitative synthesis, and 18 were included in the meta-analyses (544 healthy controls and 603 participants with migraine). Overall, studies were rated as having a low to moderate risk of bias. Included studies reported 20 different test procedures. Combined mean effects indicated that 4 of the tests included in the meta-analyses distinguished between patients and controls: range of cervical motion, flexion-rotation, pressure pain thresholds, and forward head posture in a standing position. Limitations. Manual joint testing and evaluation of trigger points were the 2 most frequently investigated tests not included in the meta-analyses because of heterogeneity of reporting and procedures. Conclusions. Three tests confirmed the presence of musculoskeletal impairments in participants with migraine when combined in meta-analyses. Pressure pain thresholds added information on sensory processing. Additional tests might be useful but require standardized protocols and reporting.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)549-569
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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