CAM common among teens with headaches

October 23, 2013

The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is common among teenagers with recurrent headaches, particularly those with a chronic condition or functional difficulties.

 

The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is common among teenagers with recurrent headaches, particularly those with a chronic condition or functional difficulties.

Researchers from Oregon and Ohio linked data from a national health survey and an expenditures survey to look at several thousand adolescents aged between 10 and 17 years.

Their research revealed that about 1 in 10 (10.6%) of the adolescents and preadolescents experienced recurring headaches, and that 86.4% of the teenagers experiencing headaches also had at least 1 other chronic condition.

Almost one-third (29.6%) of those experiencing headaches used CAM, which was almost double the use among adolescents without headache (17.4%). The percentage using CAM rose to 41% for those headache sufferers who also had difficulties with emotions, concentration, behavior, school attendance, or daily activities.

The CAM therapies most commonly used by young persons with headaches were biologically based ones (16.2%) (ie, chelation, herbal supplements, specific vitamins/minerals, and special diets), followed by mind-body therapies (13.3%) (ie, biofeedback, meditation, guided imagery, progressive relaxation, deep breathing exercises, hypnosis, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, support group meetings, and stress management class).

Other categories of CAM used by 7.4% and 4.7%, respectively, of students with headache included manipulative/body-based therapies (ie, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, massage, and movement therapy) and alternative medical system/energy healing therapies (ie, acupuncture, ayurveda, homeopathic treatment, naturopathy, traditional healers, and energy healing therapy).

Those young people who used CAM tended to spend more money on conventional care modalities as well.

Whether or not CAM strategies actually helped the students remains to be determined. The researchers concluded that the study points to the importance of pediatricians asking their patients what they are using in the way of treatment and what other conditions they suffer from, as well as being receptive to integrating CAM strategies into conventional care.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, “complementary” refers to using a nonmainstream approach together with conventional medicine, while “alternative” refers to using a nonmainstream approach in place of conventional medicine.

 

To get weekly clinical advice for today's pediatrician, subscribe to the Contemporary Pediatrics eConsult.