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Childhood Headaches

Their Cause and Treatment

Headaches are usually thought to happen only to adults. It makes sense; lots of stress plus years of bad posture and other health issues make headaches in adults very common. But they aren’t the only ones suffering. The National Headache Foundation estimates 60% of all children suffer from occasional headaches, and many school-age children have them on a consistent basis. Even before the age of 5, about 1 in 3 children have experienced a headache.

How Headaches Hurt Children

According to a new study, children who experience frequent headaches may suffer more, in some respects, than children with debilitating conditions, like cancer and arthritis. This study, published in the July issue of Pediatrics, found that pediatric headaches can affect a child’s emotional development and school performance more than children with other serious conditions. This finding calls into question how seriously we take headaches, especially in children. If recurrent headaches have such detrimental impacts on a child’s development and schoolwork, shouldn’t we be putting more emphasis on recognition, diagnosis, and treatment?

Migraine headaches in children tripled from 1974-1992 and more than half of adults who suffer from chronic migraines can trace their first migraine experience back to childhood.

So How Do People Treat Headaches?

Most people try over-the-counter treatments like ibuprofen, but these will only relieve pain temporarily, if at all. They cannot correct the cause of the headache. Plus, regular use of painkillers can make subsequent headaches worse. According to Lee Kudrow, MD, at the California Center for Headaches, “Chronic use of aspirin actually promotes chronic tension headaches”, also known as rebound headaches or medical overuse headaches.

What Causes Headaches?

Headaches cannot be traced to one specific cause, but research shows that many headaches in both children and adults stem from misalignments to the cervical (neck) region of the spine. When vertebrae in the neck are misaligned, the nerves in the neck are irritated and cause excessive muscle tension, all of which leads to headaches.

In infants, the birthing process can also be a significant cause of stress to the neck and spine. Abraham Towbin, MD, says, “Spinal cord and brainstem injuries occur often during… birth, but frequently escape diagnosis. In these infants, there may be lasting neurological defects reflecting the primary injury.”

But birth is just the beginning! Children fall a lot, whether it’s learning to walk falling off their bikes, off of playgrounds, or in sports. These injuries can cause misalignments, also known as subluxations, which build on each other overtime.

Finally, poor posture can also cause headaches. Ideally, one’s head should sit directly over the neck and spine, like balancing a golf ball on a tee. As the head protrudes forward, the load placed on the muscles in the neck and upper back is increased, causing headaches. This “forward head posture” is caused by looking down at our phones, heavy backpacks, and other repetitive motions.

Now, more parents are taking their children to a chiropractor to help. Chiropractors detect and correct spinal misalignments by adjusting the spine to restore proper position. By removing this spinal stress, the nervous system can function correctly and not have unnecessary, headache inducing stress. Chiropractors around the world are resolving headaches, one adjustment at a time.

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