Headaches in children part 2 – treatment
Written by Matthew Bennett Monday, 22 April 2013 10:38
Headaches in children are common. What can be done to help? Here at Sundial our first line of treatment is chiropractic care. We often find joints at the top of the neck have become stiff or locked. The nerves around the joints get irritated and can lead to muscle spasm which can cause childhood headaches.
Chiropractic treatment for headaches in children
Headaches in children need a different approach to the treatment in adults. The joint in the neck neck are delicate and this is obviously doubly true in kids too. We usually start with gentle massage or trigger point therapy. Trigger points are localised areas of muscle spasm which refer pain to another area, in this case, to the head. These are sometimes called cervicogenic headaches.
Treating trigger points often reproduces the headache and confirms the diagnosis. This tells us that we have found the true cause of the headaches. The muscle relaxation techniques are combined with gentle mobilisation of the neck joints. We often use a specialist adjusting instrument which is very specific and comfortable and above all – safe.
Headaches in children can often be present for years before effective treatment is carried out so it can take a few visits to correct the underlying problems. A typical treatment program consists of four to six sessions over about six weeks.
Most children with these type of headaches are pain free after that. A periodic check may be needed to make sure it does not come back but usually it is as simple as that.
Advice for children with headaches
- Watch your posture
- Limit screen time
- Get regular exercise
- Watch the artificial additives
An important part of the treatment program is specific advice to prevent recurrence. Poor posture especially on a computer or games console is a key cause of headaches. Slumped, rounded shoulders and the chin poking forwards compresses the joint in the neck and, after a while, strains the muscles which eventually can go into spasm. Hour after hour of this may lead to permanent tissue changes later in life.
Other common causes of poor posture are television watching, doing homework on the bed or the floor or at inadequate tables and reading without proper support. School desks and chairs are often inadequate as Matthew Bennett’s interview with BBC Newsround shows.
Carrying heavy school bags can also strain the shoulder muscles which attach to the neck and aggravate the problem still further.
If kids are exercising and running around then at least they are not at the computer or watching television. Physical activity strengthens the postural support muscles of the back, shoulders and neck and will help with these types of headaches.
Staying active is an important of the Sundial headache program. We can advise on specific exercises to do too. These will relax tight muscles and strengthen other neck support muscles that often have become weak with poor posture.
As ever, advice to limit artificial additives is true here too. There is some evidence that additives excite nerves that could increase pain. Aspartame, especially when combined with other additives has been shown to act as a neurotoxin (more here). So best avoid it just in case. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in many fizzy drinks, sweets, pre-prepared food and desserts as well innocent looking stuff like baked beans.
Often we hear people say that dehydration can lead to headaches and whilst it is true in severe dehydration there is not much evidence that being a bit thirsty causes a headache. However it can’t hurt to keep kids drinking plenty of water for a whole host of health reasons. It may even prevent a headache.
Headaches in children
Written by Matthew Bennett Tuesday, 5 March 2013 03:48
Headaches in children are a bigger problem than we thought. Up to half of children may experience a headache in any particular month. That figure alone is astonishing. Here at Sundial we regularly see children with headaches but obviously we are scratching the surface of this distressing condition.
Parents of children with headaches are also affected. Trying to comfort a child with a headache is distressing especially if conventional treatment options are limited. A new study on paediatric headaches sheds some light on the ineffectiveness of many treatments for headaches in children.
Giving children strong drugs for headaches may be of limited benefit. Drugs such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and beta-blockers are commonly used with little or no evidence that they actually help. Often any improvement has been put down to a placebo effect. Some doctors recommend avoiding drugs all together and going to lie down in a dark room instead.
But short of doing nothing what other options are there. Unfortunately the research in this area is poor in all areas of healthcare. Some options are chiropractic, acupuncture or massage. In adults all of these treatments have shown promising results, with the usual small print – “more research is still needed”.
What causes childhood headaches?
It is likely that the same things that cause head pain in adults are causing head pain in children. Spasm of the upper neck and shoulder muscles can refer pain to the head and face so anything that increases tension in these muscles can potentially cause a headache. In addition a trauma to the delicate neck joints can also trigger a headache. Children are forever falling off bikes or climbing frames or simply tripping over. They fall asleep in cars and on sofas with out any neck support and this can cause the neck joints to seize up and the neck muscles to go into spasm. Without adequate treatment the headaches, often with neck pain, will persist.
There are other causes of childhood headache such a migraines, fever and other health issues but these are much rarer.Learn More
Headaches – Which type of headache is it?
Written by Sundial Clinics Tuesday, 22 May 2012 01:33
If you are suffering from regular headaches the chances are that you regularly use painkillers to help alleviate the pain. You may also be taking anti-inflammatory medication or if you’re getting migraine headaches other exotic combinations of drugs. This headache treatment may help with the symptoms but does not address the underlying cause of the headaches. Fortunately there is another approach that research has shown to be effective for certain types of headache relief. Chiropractic can offer significant help to certain types of headache.
The key to getting the right treatment is understanding which type of headache you have. It is not always that easy to know as you may have more than one type of headache going on at different times. There are 3 main types of headaches that may respond to gentle conservative care. They are:-
- Cervicogenic or spinal headache caused by neck problems
- Tension headache caused by tight muscles and/or stress
The other serious types of headache are caused by things like internal bleeds, infections and space occupying lesions which need urgent medical care.
The first step in successful treatment for headaches is to identify which sort you have then a programme of treatment can be suggested which may help.
Often called cervicogenic headache, in this type the pain is associated with neck pain and pain at the back of the head. Sometimes the muscles in the neck are tender to press. It may cause pain to the forehead, over the eyes or temples too. People often describe a vice like feeling around their head. The pain is often aggravated by certain posture or neck movements. Interestingly it often eases when lying down as the weight of the head does not have to be supported. People with this type of headache often have a history of many years of suffering with it.
Tension headaches are the most commonly diagnosed type of headache with four out of five people being told that this is the cause of their pain. Tension type headaches are characterised by a frequent, steady, dull ache on both sides of the head which can last for long time. People are able to get on with normal life in spite of mild light and sound sensitivity.
Most doctors think that tension headaches are due to tight muscles in the shoulder, neck or scalp. This has not been shown in the research however. It has been tricky to identify tightness in these muscles in spite of looking quite hard. It is more likely that stress plays a bigger role that first thought. Stress, from work, daily-life and relationships has been found to be the most common headache trigger.
When we get stressed our adrenal glands release adrenalin which sensitises the pain receptor nerve endings in the body. In addition our central nervous system can become sensitised to on-going pain messages so that the pain persists even after the injury has gone. This is a plausible potential cause of tension headaches. It may also explain why manual therapy has been less successful at treating it. Traditionally tension headaches have been treated with massage, exercises and manipulation but results have been mixed. It might be that a simple switch to de-stressing type exercises and desensitising manipulation and mobilisation might be more effective.
People often mistake a tension headache for a migraine and there are a lot of similarities in including the mechanisms that are thought to cause them. A good way to determine which type you have is to compare the symptoms.
Migraines are characterised by severe, one-sided, throbbing pain, often around one eye. They are often preceded by visual disturbances. They are relatively short lived but disabling often with extreme light and sound sensitivity as well nausea. Exercise tends to make them worse and lying down doesn’t help much.
Chiropractic care has been shown to help migraines (2.). Massage and acupuncture have also been shown to help.
If you would like a free check up to see which type of headache you have then give us a call to make an appointment.
1. Stress and tension-type headache mechanisms. Cathcart et al. Cephalalgia 2010; 30(10): 1250-1267.
2. Manual therapies for migraine: A systematic review. Chaibi A, Tuchin PJ & Russell MB. Journal of Headache & Pain 2011; 12: 127-133.
3. Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report. Gert Bronfort et al Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010, 18:3Learn More
Migraine Awareness Week
Written by Sundial Clinics Friday, 9 September 2011 09:23
Migraines affect about 1 in 6 people in the UK and, as you know if you are one of them, can completely wipe you out. There are two main types of migraine:-
These migraines have early warning signs like flashing lights in the eyes or loss of a vision; tiredness or a stiff neck. This is known as the aura.
Here there are no warning signs.
Sometimes migraines get confused with an ordinary headache. Ordinary headaches will often ease on lying down but a migraine is less likely to. Migraines can often throb on one side only where as a cervicogenic headache doesn’t throb and is often on both sides of the head. Migraine sufferers often report a sensitivity to light or sound, nausea and vomitting too.
Medication is the first line of defence that GP’s use. Sometimes if taken early enough the drugs can prevent or lessen the severity of an attack. Many people find the drugs have side effects which can put them off taking them. Fortunately there are other treatment options.
Chiropractic may help with migraines. A recent study reviewed the best research and found that manipulation can improve migraines and help prevent them coming on so frequently. At Sundial we regularly see people with migraines and often get positive feedback from sufferers.
If you come in to see us for migraines we will check your spine, particularly in the neck, to see if there are any problems here that may contribute to your problem. Some of the blood vessels that supply the brain come up through the spine itself. Although the mechanism for causing migraines is unclear sorting out these neck problems seems to help.
If you would like a chiropractic check up for migraines then give us a call.Learn More
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