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Drugs and stress management together best manage chronic tension headache: Clinical trial proves benefit of combined therapies

icant reduction (≥ 50%) in the Headache Index (a measure of overall headache activity) for more patients than did either therapy alone. Patients who took placebos throughout the trial did not report any reduction in headache activity.

The study provides the first evidence that chronic tension-type headaches respond to brief behavioral therapy to the same degree as antidepressant medication alone. However, behavioral techniques may need to be repeated for several months before they have an impact on daily headaches.

John R. Marler, M.D., Associate Director for Clinical Trials at the NINDS, said This study establishes the effectiveness of tricyclic medication for chronic tension headache and provides new information about the benefits of the combined medication and behavioral treatment. These findings suggest new avenues of research in the prevention and treatment of other types of headache.

Tension headache is caused by prolonged tightening of muscles in the head and neck. This most common form of headache is classified two ways: episodic, with fewer than 15 attacks per month typically triggered by some form of environmental or internal stress, and chronic, occurring on 15 or more days a month, with varied pain throughout the day. Symptoms include a dull ache on both sides of the head, tightness or sensations of pressure around the scalp or neck, and depression. Many sufferers also find it difficult to sleep.


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Contact: Paul Girolami or Margo Warren
301-496-5751
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
30-Apr-2001


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