Performance of the Craniocervical Flexion Test, Forward Head Posture, and Headache Clinical Parameters in Patients With Chronic Tension-Type Headache: A Pilot Study

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Abstract

• DESIGN:

Case-control, descriptive pilot study.

• OBJECTIVE:

To describe the differences in the performance of the craniocervical flexion test (CCFT) between individuals with chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) and healthy controls. To assess the relationship between the CCFT, forward head posture, and several clinical variables related to the intensity and temporal profile of headache.

• BACKGROUND:

Musculoskeletal impairments of the craniocervical region might play an important role on the pathogenesis of CTTH. Deficits in the performance of the CCFT have been reported in patients with cervicogenic headache, nonspecific neck pain, and whiplash injury, but not in individuals with CTTH.

• MATERIAL AND METHODS:

Ten patients with CTTH and 10 comparable controls without headache were studied. A headache diary was kept for 4 weeks to substantiate the diagnosis and to record the pain history. The CCFT was performed with the subject supine and required performing a gentle head-nodding action of craniocervical flexion. The activation pressure score (pressure that the subject can achieve and hold for 10 seconds), the performance pressure index (calculated by multiplying the activation pressure score by the number of successful repetitions), and the highest pressure score (the highest level that each subject was able to hold for 10 seconds from 20 to 30 mm Hg) were measured. Side-view pictures of each subject were taken in both sitting and standing positions to assess forward head posture (FHP) by measuring the craniovertebral angle. All measures were taken by an assessor blinded to the subject's condition.

• RESULTS:

Patients with CTTH had significantly lower values in both active pressure score and performance pressure index (P<.001), but not in the highest pressure score (P = .057), compared to controls. Patients with CTTH had a smaller craniovertebral angle (mean ± SD, 42.0° ± 6.6°), indicating a more FHP than controls (48.8° ± 2.5°), in the standing position (P<.01); but not in the sitting position (CTTH, 39° ± 8.9°; controls, 42.8° ± 8.9°, P = .10). No association between FHP and any of the CCFT variables was found (P>.05). Headache intensity and frequency did not seem to be related to the CCFT variables, but there was a positive association between headache duration and activation pressure score (rs = 0.746, P = .02) and highest pressure score (rs = 0.743, P = .02).

• CONCLUSIONS:

These findings suggest possible impairments of the musculoskeletal system in individuals with CTTH, although it is not possible to determine if these impairments contributed to the etiology of CTTH or are as a result of the chronic headache condition.

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