Surprising Number of Preteens Have Chronic Headache

September 18, 2014
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Parents underestimate preteen headachePreteens may experience headaches and neck pain far more often than their parents would expect. A Swedish study of 131 students ages 10-13 years old compared the spinal health of students with and without pain. A surprising finding was that parents significantly underreported their child’s experience of pain.

The study found a wide discrepancy between what the children and parents reported regarding the child’s health. Children rated their experience and frequency of pain on surveys, prior to the assessment. Parents were asked separately to answer the same questions on behalf of their children.

Nearly a third of of children reported that they “often” had neck pain and/or headaches yet only 6% of parents thought their kids frequently had headache. Similarly, 61% of children reported trauma to the head and/or neck region but only 20% of the parents said that their children had experienced such trauma.

Overall, 40% of students ages 10-13 reported some type of neck pain or headache. Long periods of reading or using the computer tended to make headache worse.

To address the prevalence of headaches, chiropractors can:

  • Educate adult patients about the high levels of neck pain and headaches among youth
  • Encourage parents to talk with their children about neck pain and/or headaches and its origins
  • Teach families techniques to prevent headaches following computer or reading time

Chiropractors who continue to educate themselves on the latest findings and techniques in pediatric chiropractic are best equipped to protect the development of children’s spines.


Weber Hellstenius S A, Recurrent Neck Pain and Headaches in Preadolescents Associated with Mechanical Dysfunction of the Cervical Spine: A Cross-Sectional Observational Study With 131 Students. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, October 2009. (32)8:625-634.

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