Purpose: To update findings of the 2000-2010 Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and its Associated Disorders and evaluate the effectiveness of non-invasive and non-pharmacological interventions for the management of patients with headaches associated with neck pain (i.e., tension-type, cervicogenic, or whiplash-related headaches).
Methods: We searched five databases from 1990 to 2015 for randomized controlled trials (RCTs), cohort studies, and case-control studies comparing non-invasive interventions with other interventions, placebo/sham, or no interventions. Random pairs of independent reviewers critically appraised eligible studies using the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network criteria to determine scientific admissibility. Studies with a low risk of bias were synthesized following best evidence synthesis principles.
Results: We screened 17,236 citations, 15 studies were relevant, and 10 had a low risk of bias. The evidence suggests that episodic tension-type headaches should be managed with low load endurance craniocervical and cervicoscapular exercises. Patients with chronic tension-type headaches may also benefit from low load endurance craniocervical and cervicoscapular exercises; relaxation training with stress coping therapy; or multimodal care that includes spinal mobilization, craniocervical exercises, and postural correction. For cervicogenic headaches, low load endurance craniocervical and cervicoscapular exercises; or manual therapy (manipulation with or without mobilization) to the cervical and thoracic spine may also be helpful.
Conclusions: The management of headaches associated with neck pain should include exercise. Patients who suffer from chronic tension-type headaches may also benefit from relaxation training with stress coping therapy or multimodal care. Patients with cervicogenic headache may also benefit from a course of manual therapy.
Keywords: Cervicogenic headache; Headache attributed to whiplash injury; Non-invasive interventions; Systematic review; Tension-type headache.