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Evidence of localized and widespread pressure pain hypersensitivity in patients with tension-type headache: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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OBJECTIVE: This meta-analysis evaluates pressure pain sensitivity values in symptomatic and distant pain-free areas comparing individuals with tension-type headache to controls.

DATABASES AND DATA TREATMENT: Electronic databases were searched for cross-sectional or prospective case-control studies comparing pressure pain thresholds in patients with tension-type headache to headache-free controls. Data were extracted by three reviewers. The methodological quality was assessed by the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale. Meta-analyses of trigeminal, extra-trigeminal (neck) and distant pain-free areas in tension-type headache were compared to headache-free controls. Frequency of tension-type headache and gender were taken into account.

RESULTS: Twenty studies were included. Patients with tension-type headache exhibited lower pressure pain thresholds than headache-free controls: Trigeminal (MD -49.11 kPa, 95% CI -66.05 to -32.17), cervical spine (MD -88.17 kPa, 95% CI -108.43 to -67.92) and distant pain-free areas (MD -98.43 kPa, 95% CI -136.78 to -60.09). Differences were significant for chronic, episodic, and mixed episodic and chronic tension-type headache within the trigeminal and neck (symptomatic areas), but only significant for chronic tension-type headache (MD -102.86, 95% CI -139.47 to -66.25 kPa) for distant pain-free areas. In general, women had lower pressure pain thresholds than men. The methodological quality ranged from fair (45%) to good (40%). The results showed a high heterogeneity and publication bias.

CONCLUSION: This first meta-analysis addressing pressure pain thresholds differences in symptomatic and distant pain-free areas between patients with tension-type headache and controls found low to moderate evidence supporting the presence of pressure pain hypersensitivity in the trigeminal and neck areas in tension-type headache in comparison with headache-free controls. Sensitivity to pressure pain was widespread only in chronic, not episodic, tension-type headache (moderate evidence).Registration number: https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/R29HY.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCephalalgia
Volume41
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)256-273
Number of pages18
ISSN0333-1024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Research areas

  • algometer, meta-analysis, pressure pain, Tension-type headache

ID: 60922566