Biofeedback May Help Children with Headache

By Boschert, Sherry | Clinical Psychiatry News, May 2011 | Go to article overview

Biofeedback May Help Children with Headache


Boschert, Sherry, Clinical Psychiatry News


LOS ANGELES -- Biofeedback therapy appears to be effective in treating chronic or episodic headache in children, a retrospective study of 201 patients has shown.

A course of biofeedback therapy was designed to include eight visits with training in hand warming, pulse regulation, imagery, and relaxation. Among 132 patients who came to more than one biofeedback session, 79 (60%) responded to biofeedback therapy, Dr. Heidi K. Blume reported in a poster presentation at the meeting.

Among the 81 patients with chronic headache who came to more than one biofeedback session, 39 (48%) responded to biofeedback therapy. Among the 51 patients with episodic headache who came to more than one biofeedback session, 37 (73%) responded to biofeedback therapy.

"Response" was defined as at least a 50% reduction in the number of headaches each week, at least a 50% decrease in the number of hours with headache each week, or at least a three-point decrease in headache severity (rated on a scale of 0-10) between the patient's first and last biofeedback visits, explained Dr. Blume of the University of Washington, Seattle.

The investigators were not surprised that biofeedback worked significantly better for episodic headache, because chronic headaches often are recalcitrant to many treatments. They noted, how ever, that "the response rate of almost 50% for those with chronic headaches is meaningful and comparable to results from adult pharmaceutical trials."

Biofeedback has been used for many years to manage chronic headaches in children and adults without much data on its effectiveness. The American Academy of Neurology has said that biofeedback probably is effective in treating adults with migraines, Dr. Blume noted, but few studies have looked at biofeedback for chronic headaches in children and adolescents.

"In our clinical experience, we have seen that many children experience significant relief from their headaches using biofeedback and relaxation techniques," although management of chronic headaches is challenging and often requires a multidisciplinary approach, she said in the poster. …

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