Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps Children with Chronic Migraine

Combining a medication often used for Migraine prevention called amitriptyline with cognitive behavioral treatment has been shown to reduce attack frequency and Migraine-related disability among children with chronic Migraine.

Despite the fact that pediatric headache specialists see many children with chronic Migraine, there is very little, if any, information about evidence-based treatments to inform their choices of how to treat those child Migraineurs. In an effort to gather much needed evidence-based information, researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital studied the effectiveness of amitriptyline and cognitive behavioral therapy.

A group of children were given weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for eight weeks, then monthly for three more months, along with amitriptyline. The therapy consisted of standard cognitive behavioral techniques, such as biofeedback and parental involvement.

Approximately 66% of the children who received cognitive behavioral therapy experienced a 50% or greater reduction in Migraine attack frequency. Only 36% of the control group, which only received amitriptyline and did not receive cognitive behavioral therapy, experienced a 50% or greater reduction.

Within 20 weeks of treatment with the amitriptyline and cognitive behavioral therapy combination, children with chronic Migraine experienced significant reduction in Migraine attack frequency and Migraine-related disability. When the researchers followed up with study participants after one year, almost nine of every ten children no longer met the diagnostic criteria for chronic Migraine. Further, they experienced mild or no disability.

This was a very small study, but the result are exciting. Researchers don't see this kind of overwhelmingly positive result in studies of FDA-approved preventive therapies for adults with chronic Migraine. Many children could be helped through the approach studied by this research team.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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