EVALUATION & THE HEALTH PROFESSIONS, vol.45, no.2, pp.183-203, 2022 (SCI-Expanded)
A number of hands-off therapies have been widely reported and are used in the management of headache. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to assess evidence supporting these therapies on selected headache outcomes. A systematic literature search for randomized clinical trials reporting on the effects of hands-off therapies for headache was performed in two electronic databases; PubMed and Web of Science (PROSPERO: CRD42018093559). Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Meta-analysis was performed using Review Manager v5.4. Thirty-five studies, including 3,403 patients with migraine, tension-type or chronic headaches were included in the review. Methodological quality of the studies ranged from poor to good. Result-synthesis revealed moderate evidence for aerobic exercises, relaxation training and pain education for reducing pain intensity and disability. Other hands-off interventions were either weak or limited in evidence. Meta-analysis of 22 studies indicated that the effect of hands-off therapies significantly differed from one another for pain intensity, disability and quality of life (p < 0.05). Relaxation training, aerobic and active/stretching exercises had significant effect on pain intensity and disability (p < 0.05). To conclude, few hands-off therapies were effective on selected headache outcomes. Evidence to support other hands-off therapies is limited by paucity of studies.