Study Presented before the American Headache Society Finds Parents May Play Role in their Kids Migraine Headache Pain

June 7, 2007

According to preliminary results of an ongoing study at Columbus Childrens Hospital, to be presented at the American Headache Societys June meeting in Chicago, parents of adolescents with migraines may have an influence on the level of pain reported.

Approximately 10 percent of children and adolescents get migraines, and as many as two percent suffer from chronic migraines, meaning 15 or more headaches a month.  Nearly nine times out of 10, those kids come from families who have a history of migraines, and although the migraines may be shared, researchers arent convinced the pain is necessarily the same.

We want to know how much of a childs response to migraine pain is learned and how much is hereditary, said lead author Ann Pakalnis, MD, a neurologist at Columbus Childrens and a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. 

The study examined the relationship between parental reports of their own disability due to chronic pain conditions and migraine related disability as reported by their adolescents.  Researchers looked at twenty adolescents, ages 12 to 17 years, who averaged between one and 15 moderate to severe migraines each month, and their parents.  Nearly 93 percent of parents in the sample reported having at least one chronic pain condition.   Researchers found there was a significant correlation between the pain reported by parents and that reported by their children or teens.

Preliminary data from this ongoing study suggests those parents who report more disability due to chronic pain conditions rate their adolescents as being more disabled and have adolescents who report being more disabled by migraines. Parental disability was also positively correlated with adolescents reports of both number and severity of symptoms experienced.

When talking with children individually, they tend to report less pain and disability, said Pakalnis.  On the other hand, adults with a history of chronic pain tend to over-report their childs perception of migraine pain as compared to parents or guardians that do not have a chronic pain problem.

These results, if supported by further data collection and analysis, may have significant clinical implications for the assessment and treatment of migraines in the adolescent population.  Inaccurate pain reporting could lead to unnecessary treatment or excessive medication.

No one doubts these kids suffer from migraines, says Dr. Pakalnis.  But if we can better understand their individual level of pain, we can develop individual treatments that are best for them.

Since the level of pain tolerance varies from one person to the next, doctors say its important that parents dont make assumptions about their childs pain or speak for their child during doctors visits.

Pam Barber / Mary Ellen Fiorino
Columbus Children's Hospital Marketing and Public Relations
(614) 722-4595

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