Seeking relief from constant pain
Endless migraines & what parents should know if their child is suffering
If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know how awful they can be. Nausea, dizziness plus sensitivity to light and sound… and that’s just the cherry on top of extreme head pain.
It can be a hard thing for adults to deal with. Unfortunately, many children suffer the same pain. For some, it’s a genetic condition that’s been passed along to them. But for others, migraines are the result of injury. For 15-year-old Olivia Gillespie, her migraine problems began when she received her third concussion.
“It happened in cheerleading practice, I was kicked in the head,” says Gillespie. “I was fine. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”
Then months later, Gillespie was on a ski trip with her youth group when a headache came on and never went away.
“I just kept doing what I was doing and tried to not let it have an effect on me,” she said.
Gillespie tried to ignore the pain for two months before she said anything to anyone, but then the pain got worse.
“Olivia had an ongoing headache that would not fade. On a scale of one to 10, it was a consistent five," said Amelia Gillespie, the teen's mother. "It wasn't until her pain reached level seven that it really began to affect her.”
When Cynthia Keator, M.D., pediatric neurologist at Cook Children’s, first saw Olivia, she wanted to make sure her headaches could be treated without medication. Together, they worked on her sleep habits and diet. Dr. Keator also suggested supplements such as B2, and Omega 3, which has shown to help with headaches. In addition, Gillespie was referred to the Biofeedback Clinic at Cook Children’s.
“Biofeedback teaches patients how to control their pain by controlling their breathing, heart rate and body temperature,” says Dr. Keator.
Biofeedback specialist Nanny Christie, Ph.D., has been teaching the painless technique for decades.
“We place the child in a reclining chair and use pads to measure their body activity,” says Christie. “The equipment plugs into a laptop so the kids can see everything on the computer screen. If they tighten a muscle, a line goes up. If they relax, the line goes back down.”
Christie says teaching children to harness their breathing and muscle movement this way allows for real time learning. She says about 80 children are seen in her clinic each month. A typical visit is 45 minutes to one hour and each child is seen roughly four times.
While it wasn’t the end-all, be-all cure for Gillespie, it did help. She says she uses the technique to curb her head pain. If she feels a headache becoming worse, she can focus and calm her anxiousness which in turn can help the headache.
Also, ask your doctor about preventative medication. Your doctor may prescribe something prescription strength or a natural supplement to ease the pain.
Make sure you DON’T ask your child this question:
“How’s your headache?”
You may want to, but remember that asking about a headache is like scratching a mosquito bite. By asking, you’re reminding your child about their pain.