By Alexander Mauskop, M.D., FAAN Director, New York Headache Center, New York, NY Parents of kids with headache frequently ask about complementary and alternative approaches, hoping to avoid prescription medications and their associated side effects. As it turns out, scientific studies have shown that many of these alternative treatments can be beneficial in reducing headaches, with very few side effects. Taking these factors into account, the treatments described below are worth trying by most, if not all, headache sufferers. However, before considering any kind of medication, whether conventional or alternative, the first step is to make sure that the child has healthy habits. Parents and children, especially adolescents, should be counseled about the importance of regular and nutritious meals without any caffeine, chocolate or other known dietary migraine triggers. Frequent exercise and regular sleeping patterns are also important factors in decreasing headaches. Stress is a major contributor to headaches, even in young children. One of the best treatments for migraine and tension-type headaches is biofeedback. Many studies have shown that biofeedback works well, with long-lasting benefits. However, similar and less expensive techniques, such as self-taught progressive relaxation and meditation, work equally well. The advantage of biofeedback is that a biofeedback therapist can make the learning process easier and can act as a coach and motivator.

By A. David Rothner, M.D. Director of the Pediatric/Adolescent Headache Clinic and Chairman Emeritus of Child Neurology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio It’s not uncommon to worry that headaches are being caused by a tumor. Fortunately, they rarely are. Another condition, however, can mimic a tumor, causing similar symptoms but different concerns. This is pseudotumor cerebri, Latin for false brain tumor. It’s also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, which means that, for unknown reasons, there is an increase in intracranial pressure with a blockage of spinal fluid flow. This rare condition is more common in adolescents than children (though most common in adults).

By Donald W. Lewis, M.D. Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Norfolk, Virginia Q. My child gets stomach pain often enough that I took him to the doctor. To my surprise, the doctor diagnosed my child with abdominal migraine. I don’t get it—he doesn’t even get headaches!

By Donald W. Lewis, MD Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Norfolk, Virginia One of the more common questions posed to us by parents is whether a child’s diet is causing headaches. A huge mythology has developed surrounding diet and headache. The internet is replete with a host of recommendations–enough to confuse anyone! Furthermore, many pediatric specialists don’t exactly see eye to eye. So what is the “truth”?

By A. David Rothner, M.D. Director of the Pediatric Headache Clinic and Director Emeritus of Child Neurology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio Recently, a 15-year-old boy came to the Cleveland Clinic with severe headaches that occurred while he played basketball or just afterwards. There was no accident or incident that precipitated these headaches, yet he was getting them one to three times per week. The pounding headaches were localized over his left eye and would get worse if he didn’t stop exerting himself. In fact, they got so bad that he became nauseous and vomited.

By Joel S. Brenner, M.D. Pediatric Sports Medicine and Adolescent Medicine Specialist, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Norfolk, Virginia Parent: My son suffered a concussion during his football game last week and now he’s having a recurring headache. Doctor: Tell me, what other symptoms is he having? Parent: He complains of being tired, that sunlight and loud music bother him, and that he has difficulty concentrating in school. He also says the headache gets worse whenever he is trying to do schoolwork, read or watch television. What should we do?