1. Home
  2. /
  3. Conditions
  4. /
  5. Headaches
  6. /
  7. Specific Treatments for Tension-type Headaches

Specific Treatments for Tension-type Headaches

Tension-type headache is the most common type of headache and has a lifetime prevalence of 30 to 78% (depending on the study). Symptoms are diffuse and occur on both sides of the head/neck. Patients often report their headaches are “dull” and mild-to-moderate in intensity. Each episode can last for days to weeks and the number of episodes per month significantly varies. 

Physical therapy treatments include: 

  • Manual therapy to the neck including mobilizations to reduce tension and increase mobility of the neck
  • Other manual therapy techniques to the muscles around the neck including the trapezius, scalenes, SCM (sternocleidomastoid) and levator scapulae to reduce stiffness and increase neck mobility
  • Dry needling to reduce tension and increase mobility 
  • Stretching exercises to the neck muscles
  • Neck strengthening exercises 
  • Upper back manual therapy and exercises 


  1. Espí-López, G. V., Arnal-Gómez, A., Arbós-Berenguer, T., López González, Á. A., & Vicente-Herrero, T. (2014). Effectiveness of physical therapy in patients with tension-type headache: Literature review. Journal of the Japanese Physical Therapy Association, 17(1), 31–38. https://doi.org/10.1298/jjpta.vol17_005
  2. Kamonseki, D. H., Lopes, E. P., van der Meer, H. A., & Calixtre, L. B. (2020). Effectiveness of manual therapy in patients with tension-type headache. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Disability and Rehabilitation, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2020.1813817

Related Articles

How do we track your progress?

We define patient-centered goals as what you hope to accomplish from physical therapy. While these are typically activity-specific goals, often patients report they just wish to experience less pain.

read more