Altered pain sensitivity is believed to play an important role for chronification of headache. It has however mainly been evaluated in highly selected patients from headache clinics and never in longitudinal studies. The present study is a 12-year follow-up of a population-based study of primary headache disorders and pain perception, combining a diagnostic headache interview with examination of muscle tenderness and measurement of pressure pain thresholds in 1000 subjects drawn randomly from the general population in Denmark. The aim of the study was to explore the cause–effect relationship between the increased pain sensitivity and the development of headache. The pressure pain thresholds were normal at baseline but had decreased at follow-up in subjects who developed chronic tension-type headache over the 12-year period (p = 0.025). In subjects who developed frequent episodic tension-type headache the tenderness was normal at baseline but had increased at follow-up (p < 0.01) while the pain thresholds were normal both at baseline and at follow-up. The findings demonstrate that increased pain sensitivity is a consequence of frequent tension-type headache, not a risk factor, and support that central sensitization plays an important role for the chronification of tension-type headache.
aDanish Headache Center, Department of Neurology, Glostrup Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Nordre Ringvej, Building 23, DK-2600 Glostrup, Copenhagen, Denmark
bResearch Centre for Prevention and Health, Copenhagen County, Denmark
*Corresponding author. Tel.: +45 43232796; fax: +45 43233839.
Submitted March 12, 2007; received in revised form October 17, 2007; accepted October 22, 2007.