Muscle pain has been associated with reduced maximal muscle strength, and reduced rate of force development (RFD). Strength training (ST) has shown an effect in not only normalizing muscle function but also reducing neck muscle pain.
The aims of this study were to compare muscle function in terms of strength, force steadiness in neck flexion, as well as extension, and rate of RFD of the shoulder in tension-type headache (TTH) patients and healthy controls and to examine the correlation to tenderness. Furthermore, the aim of the study was to examine the effect of ST on neck and shoulder functions in TTH patients.
In all, 60 TTH patients and 30 sex- and age-matched healthy controls were included for a case–control comparison. The 60 patients with TTH were randomized into an ST and an ergonomic and posture correction (EP) control group. The ST group trained for 10 weeks with elastic bands.
TTH patients had a lower extension force steadiness with a significant 15% higher coefficient of variation (CoV) compared to healthy controls ( p=0.047). A significantly lower RFD (25%) was noted in the TTH group than in the healthy controls ( p=0.031). A significant ( p<0.01) and moderate correlation to muscle tenderness was found. In the intervention, 23 patients completed ST and 21 patients completed EP. No significant between-group effect was observed, but at 22 weeks follow-up, both groups had a significant within-group effect of improved extension force steadiness (ST: p=0.011 and EP: p<0.01).
TTH patients showed a deteriorated muscle function, indicated by a lower force steadiness and RFD, compared to the healthy controls. The effect of ST was not larger than EP as both groups of TTH patients showed some improvement in neck and shoulder functions during the 10 weeks intervention and at follow-up. Future interventions are needed to elucidate if normalization of muscle function can lead to a reduction in headache.