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Treating children's headache

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The Louis Bolk Institute is conducting a study on the use of complementary therapies for treating headache in children (2012 -2015). In this study we examine whether children have fewer headaches if – in addition to receiving standard treatment – they are treated by a hypnotherapist or learn meditation exercises. Previous studies have shown that hypnotherapy can benefit children with recurrent abdominal pain. It has also been shown that meditation can help to reduce children’s pain problems. Furthermore, we are interested to know how children experience and handle pain, and how pain impacts children’s behaviour and quality of life.

Present standard treatment not always effective

Migraine and tension-type headache  are common in children. In addition to medication, treatment usually includes advice on e.g. sleeping and eating routines and exercising. Stress management and relaxation exercises may also help to reduce headaches. However, persistent  headaches are more difficult to treat, and the effect of behavioural advice may be limited in this case. Furthermore, medication often has unwanted side-effects.

Large scale study

Our study involves about 140 children treated for headaches in six Dutch hospitals  (Antonius Ziekenhuis in Nieuwegein, Canisius Wilhelmina Ziekenhuis in Nijmegen, Atrium Medisch Centrum Parkstad in Heerlen, Maxima Medisch Centrum in Veldhoven, Isala Kliniek in Zwolle, Juliana Kinderziekenhuis Hospital in The Hague). The children will be followed for 9 months. If our study shows positive effects of hypnotherapy and meditation, this would mean that headaches in children can be reduced with simple, minimal-risk methods. The results will be published from 2016 in scientific medical journals and on this website.

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Project leader

Inge Boers, arts

Health and Nutrition