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Chronic Daily Headaches

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People often think of headaches as only affecting adults. However, headaches in children are very common. At Cook Children's, our Pain Management team has a lot of expertise at treating headaches in children.

Headaches in children are most often caused by a minor infection, dehydration, hunger or stress. If the headaches are recurrent, they’re likely to be one of the primary headaches, such as tension headaches, migraine or chronic daily headache.

If your child is experiencing headaches that are progressive (worsening), or associated with other prominent or worsening symptoms, an urgent medical evaluation is needed. Fortunately, those types of headaches are rare.

What is a chronic daily headache?

Chronic daily headaches (CDH) is used to describe migraine and tension-type headaches that occur more than 15 days a month for more than three months. CDH may be caused by an infection, minor head injury or taking pain medications — even nonprescription pain medications — too often (this is called a rebound effect).

How are chronic daily headaches diagnosed?

Your doctor will likely examine your child for signs of illness, infection or neurological problems and ask about your headache history.

In rare cases, your child may undergo imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI.

CT scans are almost never necessary for diagnosing the cause of chronic, ongoing, stable headaches (or headaches that come and go in a regular pattern). Imaging is useful for acute, once-in-a-lifetime headaches, headaches associated with other symptoms (like seizures or neurologic problems), or progressive headaches that are getting worse and worse.

If your child is referred to Cook Children's Pain Management program for treatment, our team of experts will work to determine the cause of your child's chronic daily headaches, such as tension or migraine, and create a treatment plan that you and your child are comfortable with.

How are chronic daily headaches treated?

The general treatment principles of chronic daily headache include:

  • Avoid daily Advil or Tylenol. If used more than 3 days a week, they may be causing the headaches (this is sometimes called a rebound effect).
  • Try to maximize a healthy lifestyle. Develop regular sleep habits, drink pltney of water, eat a healthy diet that avoids a lot of preservatives and chemicals, and get regular exercise.
  • Try not to miss school. That can add stress that inevitably makes headaches worse.
  • Consider massage and/or yoga.
  • If there are depression, anxiety and/or mood issues, find a counselor for your child to speak with. There is often a psychological component, either contributing to the headaches, or being caused by the headaches and missing school and activities.
  • Biofeedback and relaxation techniques.
  • Physical therapy may be an effective part of the treatment plan if the headaches have a musculoskeletal component.
  • Consider a daily medicine to control the headaches. These are not opioids, but other kinds of medicines that can help to prevent headaches. If daily medication is needed, your child's doctor or pain team will help you determine the best choices for your child.
  • In some instances, injections or blocks may be helpful.

We're here to help.

If your child is suffering from pain, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-7246.