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Botulinum toxin a in the treatment of chronic tension-type headache with cervical myofascial trigger points: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study.

Headache 2009 May
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of botulinum toxin A (BT-A) as a prophylactic treatment for chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) with myofascial trigger points (MTPs) producing referred head pain.

BACKGROUND: Although BT-A has received mixed support for the treatment of TTH, deliberate injection directly into the cervical MTPs very often found in this population has not been formally evaluated.

METHODS: Patients with CTTH and specific MTPs producing referred head pain were assigned randomly to receive intramuscular injections of BT-A or isotonic saline (placebo) in a double-blind design. Daily headache diaries, pill counts, trigger point pressure algometry, range of motion assessment, and responses to standardized pain and psychological questionnaires were used as outcome measures; patients returned for follow-up assessment at 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, and 3 months post injection. After 3 months, all patients were offered participation in an open-label extension of the study. Effect sizes were calculated to index treatment effects among the intent-to-treat population; individual time series models were computed for average pain intensity.

RESULTS: The 23 participants reported experiencing headache on a near-daily basis (average of 27 days/month). Compared with placebo, patients in the BT-A group reported greater reductions in headache frequency during the first part of the study (P = .013), but these effects dissipated by week 12. Reductions in headache intensity over time did not differ significantly between groups (P = .80; maximum d = 0.13), although a larger proportion of BT-A patients showed evidence of statistically significant improvements in headache intensity in the time series analyses (62.5% for BT-A vs 30% for placebo). There were no differences between the groups on any of the secondary outcome measures.

CONCLUSIONS: The evidence for BT-A in headache is mixed, and even more so in CTTH. However, the putative technique of injecting BT-A directly into the ubiquitous MTPs in CTTH is partially supported in this pilot study. Definitive trials with larger samples are needed to test this hypothesis further.

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