Recurrent headache in adolescents: nonreferred versus clinic population

Headache. 1999 Oct;39(9):616-24. doi: 10.1046/j.1526-4610.1999.3909616.x.


Objective: To compare headache activity, psychosocial measures, and cold pressor response between referred and nonreferred adolescents with frequent headache.

Design: Thirteen boys and 19 girls with a mean age of 13.4 +/- 0.9 years who had been referred to a hospital-based behavioral treatment program for recurrent headache were compared with an age- and sex-matched school-based population of nonreferred students consisting of 31 adolescents with frequent headaches and 32 adolescents with infrequent or no headaches. All subjects completed the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory/Trait form, the Children's Depression Inventory, the Childhood Somatization Inventory, and measures of headache activity and related functional disability. Additionally, all subjects reported interval discomfort scores on a 40-second cold pressor test with arm immersion in a 10 degrees +/- 1 degree C cold water bath.

Results: Subjects from both headache groups reported significantly more anxiety than those with infrequent or no headaches. The school-based nonreferred adolescents reported more depressive symptoms than the clinic-based referred subjects. In addition, the latter group reported headaches of longer duration and more school days missed due to headaches than both other groups. Whereas school-based subjects and those with infrequent or no headaches reported relatively low initial cold pressor test scores and gradually reported increasing scores with time, clinic-based subjects rated their discomfort as high at the initial interval report and maintained high levels throughout the test. No differences in somatization were found among groups.

Conclusion: Although adolescents who seek behavioral treatment for recurrent headache do not report more psychological symptoms than nonreferred adolescents with frequent headaches, they report headaches of longer duration, miss more school days due to headache, and report higher initial sustained discomfort scores to a standardized noxious stimulus.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Headache / physiopathology*
  • Headache / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Outpatients*
  • Recurrence
  • Referral and Consultation*