3 Causes for Headaches in Children and How To Get Relief Without Medicine

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Headaches in children are becoming more common and there are many possible causes;  I am going to discuss 3 of the more common causes and how to get relief without medicine.

Three of the top causes for headaches in children today include:

  • Inadequate rest
  • Poor posture
  • Emotional or mental stress

What is the Most Common Type of Headache in children?

The most common type of headache in children are tension-type headaches.  Tension headaches are also commonly known as muscle contraction headaches, daily headaches, or stress induced headaches.

These type of headaches are often described as mild to moderate with a pain wrapping around the base of the head or a pressure that may only last for 30 minutes or all day  They can come on gradually, and often occur as the day progresses.

Another common and disturbing type of headache in children that is becoming more prevalent are rebound headaches.

This type of headache is caused by medication overuse, including the commonly used over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol and ibuprofen overuse causes headaches.

The very medications we are encouraged to take to relieve a headache can cause headaches.  Chronic daily headaches can be the result of medication overuse. This can occur in any type of headache patient.

What is the Occurrence of Headaches in Children?

A study performed via a survey of 9,000 school children found that 1/3 of children who were at least 7 years old and 1/2 of those children that were at least 15 years old complained of headaches, with frequent headaches reported 2.5-15% of the time.

The prevalence of headache was 37-51 % for children 7 years of age and younger, and 57-82% for those children between 8 and 15 years old.

The statistics show a rise in headaches in children. So you may be asking what can you do to help your child find headache relief without medications; especially since headache medications can be the very cause for some of their headaches.

Disturbing Statistics on the Number of Opioid Prescriptions for Headache Treatment

One study that looked at over 8,000 adolescents who sought medical care for the treatment of their headaches found that 46% of them were provided with a prescription for some type of opioid, such as hydrocodone, Morphine, oxycodone, or other narcotics.

More disturbing than that is 48% were allowed to get a refill prescription of opioids. And 29% were given three prescriptions or more for their headaches.

How Do You Get Relief for Headaches Without Medication?

A great alternative to medications for the relief of headaches is chiropractic care.

Chiropractic treatment can help to relieve everything from stress-related tension type headaches to more severe migraines. With the reduction of headaches, chiropractic also allows the patient to decrease or stop taking their pain medications, which results in the relief of rebound headaches.

Chiropractic is natural and effective.  It is one of the best drug-free solutions for children and adolescents.

A case study (1) of a 13-year-old with headache and neck pain shows the benefit of chiropractic treatment. In the second week of treatment, the patient reported having no headaches. And within four weeks, the patient reported no reoccurrence of her symptoms.

Another study looked at 30 children suffering from headaches that were not classified as migraines.  28 of the 30 children reported excellent results from chiropractic treatment.

Finally, in a group of 27 children suffering from migraine type headaches; 24 reported excellent results from chiropractic care.

Relaxation and Other Techniques for Headache Relief at Home

Here are some relaxation strategies:

  •  Apply an ice pack to the painful area of your head. Firmly position it on your forehead, temples, or the back of your neck (Make sure to place a cloth or other piece of fabric between the ice pack and your skin.
  • Take a warm bath or shower and gently stretch neck muscles while warm; take a nap; or take a walk.
  • Rub your neck and back, or treat yourself to a massage. Use a Lacrosse ball or foam roller to self-massage tight muscle.  Maintain pressure for 7 to 15 seconds, then release. Repeat as needed.
  • Rest, sit or lie quietly in a cool, low-lit room. Close your eyes and try to release the tension in your back, neck and shoulders.
  • Apply lavender or peppermint essential oil (1-2 drops) to areas that hurt.
  • Daily stretches and exercises given to you by your chiropractor to relieve tight muscles and correct posture imbalance.

Frequent headaches in children are concerning and are becoming more common. Unfortunately, medications can be a further cause of these headaches.

By beginning to utilize alternative options to medications for treating headaches, your child will begin to have less headaches, and you have a great chance of eliminating their headaches all together.

Reference: (1) Lewit K. Manipulative Therapy in Rehabilitation of the Locomotor System, 2nd ed. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd. 1991, p.20

Wil & Kirsten Liwanag, D.C.

[email protected]

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