Migraines affect at least 8 million children in the United States alone, resulting in more than one million missed school days each year. These headaches can be debilitating. Nevertheless, they are often undiagnosed in children. Appropriate medicines can reduce the number and severity of migraines, but research suggests an even better way.
Ohio University has announced the results of a study to be presented at the 2002 annual meeting of the American Headache Society. Children who used a simple behavioral therapy program had far better results than those who used medicines.
Children read one chapter of a training guide each week, followed by a 20 to 30 minute phone call to discuss the material. The manual included instructions on noticing the beginning of a migraine, avoiding triggers, using relaxation exercises, stress management, and simple biofeedback. Children were taught how to use their minds to raise the temperatures in their fingers (monitored by electronic thermometers), thus triggering blood vessels in the brain to relax, and stopping the headache.
Those who were in the group that used only behavioral techniques to manage their headaches had a dramatic 80 percent decrease in the hours of headaches — more effective than the best migraine medicines.