Using multiple weapons to combat migraine, including medication, education and lifestyle changes, can often bring long-term relief to children with the condition, according to a new study.
Researchers found that children treated with a "multidisciplinary" approach at their headache center suffered fewer and less severe migraines over time, and missed fewer school days.
Migraines are an often debilitating form of headache, typically causing throbbing pain on one side of the head, and frequently including other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.
There are a range of ways to manage the condition, including drugs for relieving acute attacks of pain and drugs that are taken regularly, to prevent migraine episodes. Lifestyle changes may also be necessary to eliminate migraine triggers; certain foods, such as caffeinated beverages, chocolate and processed meats, can bring on a migraine in some people, as can missed meals or a lack of sleep.
Another approach to managing migraine is a technique called biofeedback. A therapist trains migraine sufferers to notice the changes that occur in their bodies before a migraine arises, and then use relaxation and other techniques to help control these changes.
Experts believe that combining these therapies is the best way to manage migraine, but little has been known about how well this works for children in the long-term, according to the authors of the new study.
So Dr. Marielle A. Kabbouche and her colleagues at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center followed children treated at their headache center over 5 years. All of the children were diagnosed with migraine and given a treatment plan that included medication, lifestyle changes and, if needed, biofeedback.
Overall, they found, of the 96 children who were evaluated after one year, 94 percent said their headaches were "better." And while they had suffered an average of 13 migraine attacks per month before treatment, that had dropped to five per month one year into therapy.
These improvements were still evident among the 32 children evaluated after 5 years. And the average number of missed school days had dipped from 4.5 per month before treatment to 1.5 after 5 years.
The results, Kabbouche told Reuters Health, are "very promising" and can hopefully serve as a model for other centers that treat children's migraine.
All children with the condition, she said, should be a given a multipronged approach to treatment, since medication alone is not enough. Children, Kabbouche explained, need to learn the importance of eating regularly and getting enough exercise and sleep, to help avoid migraine attacks in the first place. And some, such as those with sleep problems or difficulty coping with stress, may need biofeedback.
Right now, such broader treatment plans are mostly limited to specialized headache centers, according to Kabbouche. But, she said, the success of combined therapies may encourage wider use of the approach.