OBJECTIVE: To determine from the published evidence whether autogenic training as sole therapy is effective for prevention of tension-type headaches in adults. METHOD: Systematic review of controlled trials. Literature searches were performed in January 2005 in six major databases, specifically Medline, EMBASE, AMED, CENTRAL, PsychInfo and CINAHL and information was extracted and evaluated in a pre-defined manner. RESULTS: Seven controlled clinical trials were included in the review. The methodological quality of these studies was low. Patient samples were generally representative of the more severely affected cases. None of the studies show autogenic training to be convincingly superior to other interventions care. Some trials suggested that the effect of autogenic training is no different from hypnosis and inferior to biofeedback. CONCLUSION: There is no consistent evidence to suggest that autogenic training is superior to other interventions for prevention of tension headaches, or different from other forms of relaxation. Further studies should investigate the use of standard autogenic training in patients with moderate headache.