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BACKGROUND: One in four individuals with cervicogenic headache (CeH) are unresponsive to therapy. Such therapy involves predominantly biomedical interventions targeting the upper-cervical spine. A recurring theme within musculoskeletal practice is the multidimensional nature and substantial heterogeneity of the condition. Such heterogeneity might be a reason for failure of a biomedical approach. Therefore, future studies investigating efficacy of managing CeH should ideally be based on identification, and better understanding of the heterogeneity of this population based on a comprehensive evaluation of clinically relevant contributing factors. OBJECTIVES: The objective was to map profiles of individuals with CeH based on pain modulation within a multidimensional context. DESIGN: Pain Modulation Profiles (PMPs) of 18 adults (29-51 years) with CeH were mapped retrospectively. METHOD: The PMPs consisted of a Pain-Profile (bilateral suboccipital, erector spinae, anterior tibialis pressure pain thresholds), a Psycho-Social-Lifestyle-Profile (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale, Headache Impact test, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index), or a combination of both. Individual results were compared to normative data. Two Pain-Profiles were defined: normal or altered. Psycho-Social-Lifestyle-Profiles were categorized based on the number of altered psycho-social-lifestyle factors (range 0-5). RESULTS: Mapping PMPs in individuals with CeH resulted in 50% presenting with a dominant altered Pain-Profile, 16.7% with a dominant altered Psycho-Social-Lifestyle-Profile, and 5.6% with dominant alterations in both Pain-Profile and Psycho-Social-Lifestyle-Profile. CONCLUSION: Our results indicate heterogeneity of PMPs within the CeH population. Replication of these results is needed through dynamic assessment of the Pain-Profile before evaluating if these profiles can help patient-stratification.

Original publication




Journal article


Musculoskelet Sci Pract

Publication Date





Headache disorder, Multidimensional profiling, Pain modulation