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October 2021

JAMA. 1998 Nov; 280(18): 1576-9.

Spinal manipulation in the treatment of episodic tension-type headache: a randomized controlled trial.

Bove G, Nilsson N.

Center for Biomechanics, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Odense University, Denmark.

CONTEXT: Episodic tension-type headache is common and is often treated using manual therapies. Few data exist for the efficacy of these interventions. OBJECTIVE: To determine the effects of spinal manipulation therapy on adults with episodic tension-type headache. DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial lasting 19 weeks. SETTING: Outpatient facility of a National Health Service-funded chiropractic research institution in Denmark. PARTICIPANTS: Volunteer sample of 26 men and 49 women aged 20 to 59 years who met the diagnostic criteria for episodic tension-type headache as defined by the International Headache Society. INTERVENTION: Participants were randomized into 2 groups, 1 receiving soft tissue therapy and spinal manipulation (the manipulation group), and the other receiving soft tissue therapy and a placebo laser treatment (the control group). All participants received 8 treatments over 4 weeks; all treatments were performed by the same chiropractor. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Daily hours of headache, pain intensity per episode, and daily analgesic use, as recorded in diaries. RESULTS: Based on intent-to-treat analysis, no significant differences between the manipulation and control groups were observed in any of the 3 outcome measures. However, by week 7, each group experienced significant reductions in mean daily headache hours (manipulation group, reduction from 2.8 to 1.5 hours; control group, reduction from 3.4 to 1.9 hours) and mean number of analgesics per day (manipulation group, reduction from 0.66 to 0.38; control group, reduction from 0.82 to 0.59). These changes were maintained through the observation period. Headache pain intensity was unchanged for the duration of the trial. CONCLUSION: As an isolated intervention, spinal manipulation does not seem to have a positive effect on episodic tension-type headache.


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