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.