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Help for Teen Migraines

<P>Help for Teen Migraines</P>
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"The behavior program taught them to identify their migraine triggers, how to avoid them, how to manage pain when they had it, how to take medications effectively, and how to think differently about headaches so they could manage them better," Cottrell says.

One element of the program is a simple biofeedback machine that uses a small thermometer attached to a person's finger. The idea is to increase temperature in one's fingers, which relaxes the blood vessels in the head and lessens headache pain. Teens caught on to this technique very quickly.

After an initial visit, the teens didn't have to come in to the clinic. Instead, they received a 10-chapter manual with tips on relaxation, biofeedback, and stress management. Once a week, the teens spoke to a psychologist by telephone to go over that week's chapter and to discuss what they'd learned. Cottrell says this was the one part of the program she would change. Many of the kids failed to read their assignments. Perhaps, she says, a videotape or computer program would better hold their interest.

The ability of behavioral therapies and biofeedback to control migraines is well established. Donald B. Penzien, PhD, is director of the head pain center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson.

"The behavioral kinds of treatments are targeted at helping you identify what are your trigger factors, what puts you at risk for this phenomenon called a migraine," Penzien tells WebMD. "Stress is a major trigger factor. If you can learn to control your response to stress you can avoid a lot of headaches. Behavioral interventions can be useful for migraine -- the evidence is as good as for any drug treatment. The average person with migraine might be able to avoid headaches if he or she practiced some of these techniques."

Cottrell says that it is unrealistic to think that most teens will spend 20 minutes a day practicing relaxation techniques. So she teaches them to relax when they can: to breathe deeply for a few minutes between classes and to sit at their desks and calm themselves for a few minutes.

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