Trigger point therapy reduced cervicogenic headache pain by 71% for patients in a new study. The patients also experienced a 59% reduction in neck pain symptoms, as well as improved range of motion and muscle function.
Trigger point therapy is a treatment commonly used by chiropractors to relieve trigger points (TrPs), or hyperirritable spots of pain located in taut bands of skeletal muscles. Earlier research has shown that chiropractic spinal adjustments are effective for cervicogenic headache, but few studies have tested the efficacy of trigger point therapy for the condition.
In a new preliminary study, researchers tested the effects of trigger point therapy for the treatment of cervicogenic headache. Twenty patients were randomly assigned to receive either trigger point therapy (TrP therapy) or a sham treatment for three sessions during a one week period. The treatments were applied to active trigger points located in the neck.
Patients receiving TrP therapy experienced markedly better outcomes than the sham group. TrP therapy patients had significantly improved neck range of motion and increased functioning of the deep cervical flexor muscles. They also had substantially reduced pain sensitivity, neck pain, and headache. On average, patients’ headache pain scores dropped from a 7.6 out of 10 to a 2.2, or about a 71.1% reduction. Their neck pain scores also decreased from a 7.4 to a 3.0 after treatment, or about a 59.5% reduction.
More research is needed to understand why TrP manual therapy lead to these improvements. It has been hypothesized that trigger points play a role in the development of headache, since earlier studies have reported trigger points present in patients with tension headache, cluster headache, and migraine. However this is one of the first studies to confirm the presence of trigger points in people with cervicogenic headache, and to suggest that trigger point therapy can help.
Chiropractors frequently use trigger point therapy in conjunction with spinal adjustments, spinal mobilization, and exercise rehabilitation. This study adds further evidence of the efficacy of chiropractic care for cervicogenic headache.
Bodes-Pardo G, et al. Manual treatment for cervicogenic headache and active trigger point in the sternocleidomastoid muscle: a pilot randomized clinical trial. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2013; doi 10.1016/j.jmpt.2013.05.022.