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Do not treat tension headaches in children with pain relievers
Tension headaches strain the psyche. Efficiency is limited, especially when the pain is recurrent and the patient is a child. However, doctors emphasize that reaching for painkillers is usually the wrong way.
The headache of children should only be treated with pain medication in exceptional cases, because the tablets temporarily relieve the symptoms, but are not used to treat the causes of the headache, according to experts such as Dr. Hartmut Göbel, director of the Pain Clinic Kiel and Carolin Schwiening, graduate psychologist at the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at the University of Göttingen.
Painkillers unsuitable for headache treatment in children Dr. Christian Schmincke, an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and head of the clinic at the Steigerwald, already emphasized in a press release in mid-August that experience had “shown that drugs can alleviate the acute attack, but increase the frequency of attacks - even in children. “In children, headaches should never be treated with pain relievers. The director of the Kiel Pain Clinic also showed this view and added that painkillers also have side effects that should never be downplayed.
Self-medication should therefore never be a permanent solution. Instead of relying on drug treatment for the headache, parents should rather look for alternative therapeutic approaches and, for example, tackle the recurring tension headache with a relaxation strategy, explained Göbel. According to the expert, tension headaches can usually be recognized relatively clearly: "The children feel light-headed and complain of a dull, oppressive pain that stretches all over their heads." Migraines do not occur with tension headaches. The symptoms do not get worse with physical exertion. The affected children, however, feel "dull and tired and have a heavy head," said Goebel.
Excessive inner cause of the tension headache According to the experts, the causes of the occurrence of tension headache in children can be extremely different. For example, "the increasing demands at school, but also a restless life in leisure time" should be mentioned as possible triggers, Dr. Goebel. The graduate psychologist from the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at the University of Göttingen, Carolin Schwiening, added that family problems, arguments with friends or social changes such as moving can cause headaches in the little ones.
As the name suggests, tension headaches are usually the result of an inner tension and overwork, the cause of which needs to be found out, explained the director of the Pain Clinic in Kiel. However, sitting for hours at school, not getting enough sleep, spending a lot of time in front of the TV or the computer, and lack of exercise can promote the appearance of tension headaches. As a rule, however, the "headache spook" usually "disappears fairly quickly" if the children manage to take away their worries, emphasized Dr. Goebel.
Get medical help for tension headaches Although the tension headache does not threaten children with serious health problems for the time being, the experts warn that the signals should still be taken seriously. In the long term, recurring tension headaches can not only significantly impair the children's performance, but in the worst case also healthy psychosocial development, which is associated with a significantly increased risk of depressed moods, explained Carolin Schwiening. If the tension headache occurs, medical help should therefore be sought early, according to the expert. The doctor or neurologist first determines whether physical illnesses such as infections, delayed colds or digestive problems are the cause of the headache.
According to the experts, a so-called “headache diary” is also helpful in determining the cause, in which the time of the tension headache and other factors, such as connections with food, school or family quarrel, are recorded. This could make the search for the causes of the headache much easier. Once the causes of the headache have been determined, "strategies are developed in consultation with the doctor or psychologist to avoid these trigger situations in the future," Göbel explained the treatment of the tension headache.
Treatment of headaches without medication According to the experts, relaxation therapies, for example, are often a good substitute for the medicinal treatment of headaches. Parents should also allow the affected children a lot of rest and relaxation after school. Cooling compresses, essential oils or a neck massage can also help to avoid tension headaches, according to the director of the Pain Clinic in Kiel.
In naturopathy, for example, the methods of traditional Chinese medicine offer relatively promising treatment options for tension headaches, whereby the "individually tailored therapy and holistic view" is the basis of a successful treatment, explained the TCM expert Dr. Christian Schmincke. Massages, healthy eating and acupuncture should support the treatment. A scientific study by the University of Göttingen shows how many children are actually affected by the tension headache, according to which around 17 percent of all children in Lower Saxony suffer from headaches regularly, seven percent even weekly. According to Carolin Schwiening, "headaches are the third most common cause of school absences", which illustrates the need for action. (fp)