Is Your Child Experiencing “Back to School” Headaches?
Tension-type headaches often affect children and adolescents. Although there is no one cause that can be singled out as the culprit every time, it is believed that tension-type headaches are related to tightened muscles in the neck and scalp. Those tightened muscles can be attributed to a number of causes, and some of them are related to mental and emotional stress. It is time for kids to go back to school, and this time of year is loaded with stress for many children. If your child is complaining of frequent headaches as the summer draws to a close, there is a good chance they are experiencing tension-type headaches. Tension-type headaches are experienced by as many as 20% of teens and are a bit less common in younger children.
How Are Tension-Type Headaches Different From Others
There are a number of indicators that a recurring headache is, in fact, a tension-type headache. Most often starting in the middle of the day, tension-type headaches are characterized by a low to moderate, gradually increasing, band of pain or pressure. They can last anywhere from a half hour to all day long. More severe tension-type headaches tend to come on every day and are characterized by a throbbing sort of pain. The level of pain of a severe tension-type headaches can fluctuate but is typically present all day.
Why Tension-Type Headaches Can Occur in Kids and Teens
Tension-type headaches may be genetic, however there are triggers that can bring them on. The muscle tension that ultimately causes them is most commonly caused by mental or emotional stress, poor posture or inadequate sleep. For children and adolescents, it’s the first cause, mental or emotional stress, which can become a factor at this time of year. The list below includes some common stressors in children’s lives, especially related to school. Some of these are positives, but they can be stressors none the less.
- Attending a new school
- Overly strict teachers
- Substitute teachers
- Maintaining high grades
- Lacking friends
- Competitive sports
- Extra-curricular activities
- Working part-time
- Learning to drive
- Insufficient sleep
There Are Ways to Help Your Child
It’s important to take your child to a specialist if headaches are frequent. The doctor can get to the source of the matter and rule out anything serious. Tension-type headaches themselves do not cause neurological damage. However, they can disrupt regular daily activities and often lead to missed school. Tension-type headaches are treated with a combination of medicine and other strategies. The doctor will likely advise you to keep an eye on your child’s sleep routine, and diet. Counseling and stress management techniques may also be employed. Here are some remedies to try before visiting the doctor:
- Apply ice to the headache area
- Rest quietly in a low lit room
- Take a warm shower or bath
- Get a massage
There are ways to help your child through this time if they are experiencing recurring headaches. Help your child to avoid and manage emotional and mental stress. This may help reduce the onset of tension-type headaches. Make sure your son is eating and sleeping well, getting regular exercise and drinking plenty of water. Keep a headache diary that includes not only when the headache occurs, but also anything done or experienced that day that may have triggered the headache. And, of course, follow the doctor’s treatment plan closely.
At Miami Headache Institute we have had much success in treating children and adolescents with tension-type headaches as well as other types of headaches. If your child, or anyone in your family, is experiencing regularly occurring headache pain, don’t wait to contact us to set up a consultation.