Obesity in the pediatric headache population: a multicenter study

Headache. 2009 Feb;49(2):170-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2008.01232.x. Epub 2009 Jan 9.


Objective: To examine the prevalence of obesity, the relationship between weight compared with headache frequency and disability, and effect of weight change on headache outcomes within a pediatric headache population.

Background: Headache and obesity are both common conditions in children and adults. Research in adults has suggested a relationship between the 2 conditions. This relationship has not yet been explored within a pediatric population. The effect of obesity and weight change on headache outcomes may have important implications for clinical care.

Method: Data on height, weight, age, and gender, as well as headache frequency and disability, were collected on 913 consecutive patients at 7 pediatric headache centers, the body mass index (BMI) calculated and the BMI percentile determined. The same data were collected on patients seen at 3- (n = 213) and 6-month (n = 174) follow-up for comparative analysis.

Results: The prevalence of overweight patients at initial visit did not significantly differ from the general pediatric population. BMI percentile was significantly correlated with headache frequency and disability at initial visit, although the correlations were relatively small. For children who were obese or at risk for overweight as initial visit, change in BMI was significantly positively correlated with change in headache frequency at 3- and 6-month follow-up.

Conclusions: Obesity is associated with headache frequency and disability in the pediatric headache population. For children who are overweight, weight loss can contribute to a reduction in headaches over time. Clinicians should consider child weight status in providing care for pediatric headache.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Headache / complications*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies