Open Access

Physical therapy and adjunctive botulinum toxin type A in the treatment of cervical headache: a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study

  • Peter Schnider,
  • Ecaterina Moraru,
  • Marion Vigl,
  • Christian Wöber,
  • Daniela Földy,
  • Joachim Maly,
  • Christian Bittner,
  • Peter Wessely and
  • Eduard Auff
The Journal of Headache and PainOfficial Journal of the Italian Society for the Study of Headaches3:00024

DOI: 10.1007/s101940200024


We examined the efficacy of physical therapy and adjunctive botulinum toxin type A (BTX-A) injections in the treatment of cervical headache. We performed a doubleblind, randomised, placebo-controlled study over a 12-week period in a university clinic outpatients department. A total of 33 patients with cervical headache, diagnosed according to International Headache Society classification were enrolled. All patients received standardized physical therapy over a three-week period. Patients were randomised to receive either BTX-A (Botox) or placebo. The BTX-A group received a total dose of 90 mouse units (mu) BTX-A at six trigger points while the placebo group received saline. Pain characteristics were reported in a headache diary. Tenderness in the neck muscles, the sagittal range of motion and biofeedback measurement were also documented. Both groups showed significant improvement in terms of headache severity (p<0.05), number of headache-free days (p=0.005) and number of headache hours per day (p<0.05). Trends towards an increase in the number of headache-free days and a decrease in headache hours per day were observed in the BTX-A group. No major side effects were observed. Physical measures and BTX-A injections are safe and effective in the treatment of cervical headache.

Key words Cervical headache Botulinum toxin type A Physical therapy