Recurrent or daily headache pain is a burden for both children and their families alike. Headache interferes with school performance and quality of life. Health behaviors like poor sleep, improper nutrition, and exposure to headache triggers can exacerbate this pain. Factors like stress, fear, perfectionism, or frustration can interfere with behaviors leading to good health. Children also find themselves engaging in a “habit” or pattern of behaviors which, healthy or unhealthy, they find difficult to change.
Behavioral treatment for headache teaches children cognitive and behavioral strategies (i.e., “changing the way you think and act”) that can successfully reduce the pain and distress associated with headaches. While the focus is on the child or teen, parents also learn about strategies to effectively monitor and support their child’s self-management of headaches and succeed in regular activities. These strategies are meant to complement the medical recommendations provided by the referring doctor.
There is a lot of research that support using these skills to prevent and treat headache. Additionally, data from our treatment program shows significant reduction in the number of severity of headaches children experience.
- Practice Parameter: Evidence-based Guidelines for Migraine Headache (an evidence-based review from the American Academy of Neurology)
What To Expect
When referred for behavioral treatment for headache, you and your child with meet with Dr. Benore or another member of his team. After an initial evaluation, you will receive both general and specific recommendations that will aid in headache management.
Often, we recommend specific training in behavioral skills. This is often provided in group format so children may benefit from learning skills with their peers; however individual treatment may be recommended. Treatment sessions address healthy lifestyle habits, relaxation training, stress management, and emotion control.
Treatment typically occurs in 5-8 sessions, over a 2 month period. There is scheduled homework exercises to strengthen a child’s headache management skills. At the conclusion of the treatment, a summary of the treatment and the child’s progress are shared with the parents and referring physician.
For some patients with prolonged chronic daily headache, additional follow-up sessions are recommended to ensure response to behavioral interventions. Participation in the Pediatric Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program may also be necessary.
Additionally, some patients are recommended to receive biofeedback to enhance their response to behavioral interventions.
Led by Dr. Ethan Benore, treatments are held at several locations throughout the year.
To request more information on the program, including the start date of the next session or to schedule an evaluation, please call 216.448.6253.
A referral from the child’s primary care physician or neurologist is requested. After an appointment is made, you will be directed to a secure website to complete questions specific to behavioral treatment for headache. While some questions may not seem related to headache at first, the information is important to understand the best type of behavioral intervention for your child.
In addition to completing some online assessment measures, it may be helpful to track your child's headaches using the following form and bring it to your first appointment.
- Headaches.org - Tools for Sufferers
- Headaches.org - My Headache
- American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education (ACHE)
- ACHE Kids Help
- Migraines in Children
- Headache Books and Newsletters
- Headaches in Children and Adolescents