Effectiveness of physiotherapy for seniors with recurrent headaches associated with neck pain and dysfunction

A previous study demonstrated that in seniors, the presence of cervical musculoskeletal impairment was not specific to cervicogenic headache but was present in various recurrent headache types. Physiotherapy treatment is indicated in those seniors diagnosed with cervicogenic headache but could also be adjunct treatment for those with cervical musculoskeletal signs who are suspected of having transitional headaches. This study aimed to determine the effectiveness of a physiotherapy program for seniors with recurrent headaches associated with neck pain and cervical musculoskeletal dysfunction, irrespective of the headache classification.

Sixty-five participants with recurrent headache, aged 50-75 years, were randomly assigned to either a physiotherapy (n=33) or a usual care group (n=32). The primary outcome was headache frequency. Secondary outcomes were headache intensity and duration, neck pain and disability, cervical range of motion, quality of life, participant satisfaction, and medication intake. articipants in the physiotherapy group received 14 treatment sessions. Participants in the usual care group continued with their usual care. Outcome measures were recorded at baseline, 11 weeks, 6 months, and 9 months. This study was funded by a government research fund of $6,850. No conflict of interest is declared.

There was no loss to follow-up for the primary outcome measure. Compared with usual care, participants receiving physiotherapy reported significant reductions in headache frequency immediately after treatment (mean difference -1.6 days, 95% confidence interval [CI] -2.5 to -0.6), at 6-month follow-up (-1.7 days, 95% CI -2.6 to -0.8), and at 9-month follow-up (-2.4 days, 95% CI -3.2 to -1.5), and significant improvements in all secondary outcomes immediately posttreatment and at 6- and 9-month follow-ups, (p<.05 for all). No adverse events were reported.

Physiotherapy treatment provided benefits over usual care for seniors with recurrent headache associated with neck pain and dysfunction.