C h ild h o o d H e a d a c h e s D o n 't Tak e T h e m L ig h tly
B y D r. B ria n A b e ls o n D .C . R N C .
Headaches during childhood should be taken seriously. There is a growing body of evidenceshowing that headaches that occur during childhood can set a pattern for headache relateddysfunction throughout a person's adult life. In the United States, it is estimated that more than 45million people suffer form headaches on a regular basis. Most of these individuals suffer frommore than one type of headache concurrently.
Even children, one or two years old, can suffer from severe headaches. The causes of theseheadaches are very similar to those of adults. Children experience migraines, tension headaches,sinus headaches, allergy related headaches, cervicogenic headaches, headaches from nutritionaldeficiencies, and headaches resulting from the excessive use of pain medications.
I have obtained very good results in treating headaches by using a combination of Chiropracticadjustments, cranial manipulation, TMJ protocols, purcussor, and a wide variety of tensionreducing exercises. Unfortunately, as good as these techniques are, we are still not addressingsome major issues that can cause childhood headaches.
This article assumes that you have been conducting a through orthopedic and neurologicalexamination, and have ruled out any serious pathological processes such as brain tumors ormeningitis. I will focus on what I consider to be some key issues that are often over looked oravoided in the treatment of childhood headaches. M e d ic a tio n s
In many cases a child may present to you after seeing a medical practitioner about headaches orsome other syndrome. In many of these cases, you may be dealing with the secondary effects ofdrug treatment and not a primary headache. For example, the drug Imitrex stops migraineheadaches by constricting blood vessels. Once the effects of Imitrex wears off, the constrictedblood vessels swell at an extremely fast rate to normal size. This high rate of swelling causes arebound headache. In many cases the patient takes more Imitrex to reduce the rebound effect. Additionally, Imitrex has also been implicated in heart damage caused by its systemic vaso-constrictive action. (Yes they do prescribe this drug to children.)1
Most medical doctors do not have the time to discuss the side-effects or adverse reactions withtheir patients. In fact, due to the existence and introduction of thousands of new drugs mostmedical practitioners are not aware of these side effects. Physicians rely on drug representativesto keep them informed about these medications. But these people work for pharmaceuticalcompanies whose focus is on profit, not health.
Due to this, if a child presents to you with a headache and is on medication, you should research the sideeffects of drugs by:
• Checking to see if the drug is being prescribed as an "off label" to treat conditions that they are not
• Reviewing the adverse reactions caused by the drug
As health care practitioners, it is our responsibility to educate patients about adverse drugreactions. It is the patients responsibility to discuss and evalute the drug with their medicalpractitioner.
You can find a complete listing of all pharmaceuticals, their adverse reaction, and side effects onthe Internet at http://www.rxlist.com/.
The following table lists some of the common medications that I have causes headaches inchildren. Medication Condition Medication Condition Medication Condition Dexedrine Claritin Prednisone Pertussis Ventolin Tetracycline Cephalexin Pulmicort Cleocin T Cyproheptadine Over Use of Medications C o re C o n s id e ra tio n s
Diseases caused by environmental toxicity are increasing at an alarming rate in our world. Headaches are often directly related to environmental toxicity, especially when combined withfast foods, refined carbohydrates, chemical laden processed foods, and the stresses of daily life. The following are some of my key recommendations. Remember, even minor changes inenvironment and diet can make a difference. Avoid the Common Triggers
Staying away from the common headache triggers and rotating a child's diet can often eliminateheadaches. Once the child has been headache-free or a period of two weeks, beginreintroducing one food group back into their diet every three or four days. Some of the mostcommon triggers are:
Check For Allergenic Responses
Many studies have show a correlation between allergens and headaches. I highly recommend that children with chronic headaches be given an Elisa Test. Scratch tests may not give a true picture of allergenic responses since allergenic reaction may not show up for days after the exposure to allergen. I recommend using the facilities at Great Smokies Laboratories. For more information see their web site at http://www.gsdl.com.
The right source of protein will help reduce a headache, while the wrong source may cause a headache. Red meats can lead to headaches through the aracadonic acid pathway due to the production ofinflammatory prostaglandin's. Processed meats are sources of nitrates, sulfites, and other additives that aredirectly related to headaches. The best sources of protein are cold water fish, tofu, egg whites, and freerange hens. Because hypoglycemia is commonly related to headaches, I have my patients eat thesesources of protein three times a day to reduce glucose fluctuations. Carbohydrate
Have your patients review their carbohydrate sources. Once they look at the glycemic index of variousfoods, they may be surprised at how much sugar they have been feeding their children. Hypoglycemia has aclose relationship to headaches. You may be surprised to see that a baked potato has a glycemic indexhigher than that of table sugar. For a complete listing of the glycemic index and more information go tohttp://www.mendosa.com/gi.htm . Essential Fatty Acids
Fatty acids can play a major role in the development of childhood headaches. I recommend the eliminationof all polyunsaturated vegetable oils, any form of trans-fatty acids (margarine and partially hydrogenatedvegetable oils) from the child's diet. These substances promote the production of inflammatoryprostaglandin's. Children should eat foods high in gamma-linolenic acid (black current oil) and omega-3fatty acids (salmon, oily fish, and flax oil). For cooking, use only use pure virgin oil. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Some of the most common vitamin deficiencies in children include folic acid, B12, B6, andVitamins A and D. Many headaches can be triggered by a decrease in oxygen supply. Folic acidand Vitamin B12 are involved in the oxygenation of tissue and can help to reduce occurrences ofsuch headaches. Mineral Deficiencies
One of the best ways to determine mineral deficiencies is through hair analysis. The other benefitof hair analysis is that you can determine if the child has been subjected to heavy metals in theirenvironment. It is not uncommon to find high levels of aluminum and lead in children with chronicheadaches. Hair analysis is available through Professional Health Products at 1-800-661-1366. Supplementary Recommendations
From a symptomatic perspective there are several supplements that you can recommend with outthe negative side effects of pharmaceuticals. The following table lists some of the most commonsupplements that we recommend for children. Substance Function
producer. Levels will varydepending on theconcentration in the tablet.
Will vary greatly depending on the signs & symptoms please refer to:http://www.healthy.net/asp/templates/book.asp?PageType=Book&ID=547
C o n c lu s io n
Childhood headaches, if not dealt with appropriately can lead to long term dysfunction. Even thoughChiropractic adjustments are a primary tool for addressing bio-mechanical and neurological dysfunction,numerous other factors (medications, common environmental triggers, diet, and stress), must beconsidered. Due to the complexity of this topic, I strongly recommend taking the time to further research thistopic. See the websites at the end of this article.
Dr. Brian Abelson is Edgemont Chiropractic's clinical director. Dr. Abelson is a native Calgarian who graduated fromPalmer College of Chiropractic West in1992 with an award for clinical excellence. Dr. Abelson regularly teaches coursesin nutrition and alternative and complementary medicine for the Calgary Board of Education, various health organizations,
and to other health care practitioners. Dr. Abelson is the host of the award winning, popular web site "Ask Dr. Abelson" atwww.drabelson.com.
Author: Dr. Brian AbelsonEditor: Kamali Abelson, Rowan Tree Consulting Ltd. Edgemont Chiropractic ClinicBay #10, 34 Edgedale Drive N.W. Calgary, Alberta, T3A-2R4For more information, please call our clinic or send an E-mail to the following address.
Phone: 403-241-3772E-mail: email@example.comWeb Site www.drabelson.com
R e fe re n c es
Migraine Killer (Imitrex) http://www.motherjones.com/mother_jones/SO95/regush.html
Higgins C. Deficiency testing for iron, vitamin B12 and folate. Nurs Times 1995;91(22):38-39.
Johns Hopkins University http://hopkins.med.jhu.edu/NewsMedia/hnf/HNF_800.HTM
LaMancusa R, Pulcinelli FM, Ferroni P, Lenti L, Manzari G, Pauri F, et. al. Blood leukotriens in headaches:correlation with platelet activity. Headache 1991;31(6):409-414.
5. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research http://www.mayohealth.org/mayo/9901/htm/guide.htm
6. Thys-Jacobs S. Alleviation of migraines with therapeutic vitamin D and calcium. 1994;34(10):590-592.
7. U.S. National Library of Medicine http://medlineplus.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/headacheandmigraine.html
Vapaatalo H. Tolfenamic acid and migraine--aspects on prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Pharmacol Toxicol 1994;75Suppl 2:76-80.
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