Central mechanisms in tension-type headaches

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2002 Oct;6(5):392-400. doi: 10.1007/s11916-002-0082-x.


Although tension-type headache is the most frequent primary headache, little is known about its pathophysiology. It is a matter of debate if the pain in tension-type headache originates from myofascial tissues or from central mechanisms in the brain. This article presents a summary of available data on the pathophysiology of tension-type headache and proposes a pathogenic model. From experimental research and clinical studies, it appears that myofascial nociception is important in episodic tension-type headache; however, central mechanisms (ie, central sensitization) are preponderant in the pathophysiology of the chronic form. Understanding the mechanisms of this central sensitization could allow for more efficient prophylactic treatments to emerge.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Tension-Type Headache / diagnosis
  • Tension-Type Headache / physiopathology*
  • Tension-Type Headache / therapy