Public Release: 

Headaches devastating to children's quality of life

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

CINCINNATI -- The quality of life of children with headaches is comparable to that of children with such serious conditions as cancer and rheumatic diseases, according to a new study by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

In fact, the study shows that children with headaches appear to be more affected in emotional functioning and school performance than children with other serious, chronic medical conditions, according to lead author Scott W Powers, PhD, co-director of the Cincinnati Children's Headache Center --one of the largest pediatric headache centers in the world.

"Headaches are a common problem found in about one of every 10 children and four adolescents," says Dr. Powers, who is also a pediatric psychologist at Cincinnati Children's. "The fact that the impact of these headaches is at least equal to that of childhood illnesses often considered more severe and debilitating suggests that pediatricians and other caregivers should place more emphasis on their recognition, diagnosis and effective treatment."

In the study, published in the July issue of Pediatrics, the researchers surveyed 572 children and adolescents who receive care at the Cincinnati Children's Headache Center. Ninety-nine percent had a diagnosis of migraines, and forty percent had chronic daily headaches. The patients and their parents completed a standardized headache assessment and a reliable and valid measure of quality of life - the PedsQL 4.0™. The results were compared to established norms for healthy and chronically ill children.

The researchers discovered that quality of life is negatively affected in all areas of functioning when compared to healthy children, including school functioning, emotional functioning and physical health. Children with migraines reported more impairment in school functioning and emotional functioning than children with other chronic illnesses.

The Headache Center, a collaboration between the divisions of Neurology and Psychology at Cincinnati Children's, was established in the fall of 1996. Andrew D. Hershey, MD, PhD, a pediatric neurologist, and Dr. Powers lead the program.

The Center's multidisciplinary team has seen more than 1,500 children with complaints of headaches. Of these, clinically 86 percent have migraines, 11 percent have migraine with auras and 11 percent have tension-type headaches. Treatment strategies include abortive therapy for individual headache episodes, prophylactic therapy for preventing headache episodes and psychological intervention including biofeedback-assisted relaxation training as well as life style behavior adjustments.


Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is a 373-bed institution dedicated to the pursuit of perfect health care. It is the only pediatric organization in the United States to receive the prestigious Pursuing Perfection grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation ranks third nationally among all pediatric centers in research grants from the National Institutes of Health. The Cincinnati Children's vision is to be the leader in improving child health, through patient care, research and education. Additional information about Cincinnati Children's can be found at

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