Headaches in children

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.