Tension-type headaches (TTH) are common among children worldwide and mean a potential risk of disability and medication overuse headache. The associated mechanisms, however, remain unsolved. Our study investigated muscle strength in the neck-shoulder region, aerobic power and pericranial tenderness in girls with TTH compared with healthy controls.
A blinded case-control study comprising 41 girls with TTH and 41 age-matched healthy controls. Standardised testing of isometric maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and force steadiness of neck flexion and extension, as well as MVC and rate-of-force development of dominant shoulder, was conducted. VO2 max was recorded by a submaximal ergometer test and pericranial tenderness by standardised manual palpation. Logistic regression analyses were applied.
Girls with TTH demonstrated significantly higher pericranial tenderness than controls, in correlation with headache frequency (r = 0.66, p < 0.001). Results indicated that the odds ratio of girls having headache are 7.6 (95% CI 1.4-40.9) for weak to strong shoulder muscles; weak to average neck-shoulder strength OR 3.1 (95% CI 1.2-8.1); neck flexion strength OR 1.3 (95% CI 1.0-1.6) and 5.2 (95% CI: 1.4-19.6) for each unit of decrease in VO2 max.
Reduced neck-shoulder strength and aerobic power together with increased pericranial tenderness are associated with TTH in girls. Future interventions should be directed towards health promoting patient educational programmes on enhanced physical exercising. Much more exact and detailed research in young girls and boys are needed.
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