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Exercise Training With A Physically Active Lifestyle to Reduce Headaches and Improve Quality of Life

A randomized, controlled trial to investigate exercise training and its cost-effectiveness in the treatment of chronic headaches among working women.


Tension-type headaches and cervicogenic headaches as well as migraines are the most common reasons for visits to a doctor among working women. They have mainly been treated with medication and physical therapy. However, so far there is hardly any evidence-based research data regarding the training methods used as part of physical therapy.


The aim was to investigate whether specific, progressive neck and cervical muscle training was effective in reducing headaches. In addition, the aim was to investigate how the training affects the participants’ quality of life and physical activity in their free time and how cost-effective the program was. 


The participants recruited for the two-year study were 18 to 60-year-old working women who live in Tampere or Helsinki and who have suffered from headaches. The study began in the autumn of 2012 and was conducted in collaboration with Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Jyväskylä Central Hospital – Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, and the Department of Health Sciences University of Jyväskylä. 

After the initial assessments, the participants were randomly divided into two groups. The groups had six sessions supervised by a physical therapist during the first six months, after which training continued independently over the next six months. The study also monitored headaches and the participants’ engagement in exercise in their free time. The follow-ups took place 6, 12, and 24 months after the training began. 


After 6 months, the decrease in pain intensity was slight with no between-group difference. Headache frequency decreased from 4.5 to 2.4 days/week in the exercise group and from 4.4 to 3.0 in the control group, the significant between the groups. Headache duration decreased in both groups, with no between-group difference. The results indicate that the progressive exercise program almost halved the headache frequency and theexercise program could be recommended as one treatment option for women with chronic headache. The results from the 12- and 24-month follow-ups and some outcome variables are not published yet.   


2012— 2018



Marjo Rinne, Senior Researcher 


Neck-Shoulder Region Training for Chronic Headache in Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial – PubMed ( 

Rinne M, Häkkinen A, Ylinen J, Nikander R, Kukkonen-Harjula K. Therapeutic exercise training to reduce chronic headache in working women: a protocol of randomised controlled trial. Physiotherapy 2015:101:(suppl. 1):eS1285-eS1286

Last updated: 21.9.2023

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