Current Pain and Headache Reports

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 539–544 | Cite as

Complementary and Alternative Approaches to the Treatment of Tension-Type Headache

  • Christina Sun-EdelsteinEmail author
  • Alexander Mauskop
Tension-Type Headache (KA Henry, Section Editor)


While pharmacotherapy with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and tricyclic antidepressants comprises the traditional treatment of tension-type headaches (TTH), the use of other therapeutic approaches in combination with medications can increase the success of treatment. Patients with comorbid mood disorders and frequent headaches may particularly benefit from some nonpharmacologic approaches. This review focuses on complementary and alternative approaches to tension-type headache treatment, including psychological therapies, acupuncture, and physical treatments. The current evidence indicates that EMG biofeedback (BFB) is effective in the treatment of TTH, and cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation training may also be beneficial. Physical therapy and acupuncture may be considered in patients with frequent TTH, but the scientific basis is limited.


Complementary treatment Alternative treatment Nonpharmacologic treatment Tension-type headache Psychological treatment Physical treatment Biofeedback Acupuncture Cognitive behavioral therapy Nutraceuticals 



No potential conflicts of interest relevant to this article were reported.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical NeurosciencesSt Vincent’s Hospital MelbourneFitzroyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of NeurologySUNY Downstate Medical CenterBrooklynUSA
  3. 3.New York Headache CenterNew YorkUSA

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