|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Recurrent Headache in Teenager

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: My 15-year-old often complains about headaches. She regularly uses Motrin. The results of a recent MRI were normal, but she complains. What can I do to help her?

A: Recurrent headaches are very common complaints in children and adolescents. The causes can be varied, but are not always easy to identify. Migraines and tension headaches top the list. There are different types of migraines and up to three-quarters of children with them will have a family history of migraines.

Recurrent headaches also fall into that category of nonspecific complaints like bellyache, chest pain, or other possibly psychosomatic symptoms, where the body may be responding to a particularly stressful situation. Stresses in a family such as marital problems, family separation, or divorce are factors that have been associated with recurrent headaches in adolescents.

I suspect that your daughter's normal MRI was somewhat reassuring to you. Many parents often want to first know that the recurrent headaches are not due to anything "serious." Yet she is still complaining, so now what? I'd recommend further exploration of your daughter's headaches. Discuss this with her doctor. Specific questions can be asked and a thorough examination can be performed to perhaps better pinpoint the cause(s).

Occasionally, a phenomenon of rebound headaches with regular, frequent use of pain relief medicines like Motrin has been the unexpected cause. If her headaches are very debilitating to her, it might even be helpful to have her evaluated by a neurologist.

Once an underlying cause is identified, management can be more focused. Reassurance and education should be included as cornerstones of treatment. For example, with tension headaches, medications are not always the answer -- rest and learning to cope with a stressor can be more effective. Medication use should be thoroughly explained to you and your daughter. It is important to know when and how each medicine is to be used and which triggers, if any, can be minimized or avoided.

More on: Expert Advice

Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Healthy Smile Checklist for Kids
Have better dental check-ups with this free printable checklist that helps keep your child flossing, brushing, and smiling! Brought to you by Philips Sonicare.

Kindergarten Readiness App
It's kindergarten registration time! Use this interactive kindergarten readiness checklist, complete with fun games and activities, to practice the essential skills your child needs for this next big step. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top 10 Earth Day Books for Children
Celebrate the environment by reading some of these great children's books about Earth Day, recycling, planting trees, and all things green!

Prom Dress Trends for 2014
Check out 2014 prom dress trends inspired by celebrities’ red carpet looks, but with a price tag under $100!