A randomized controlled trial of Internet-based self-help training for recurrent headache in childhood and adolescence

Behav Res Ther. 2010 Jan;48(1):28-37. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.09.004. Epub 2009 Sep 10.


Two different self-help training programs (multimodal cognitive-behavioral training (CBT) and applied relaxation (AR)) presented via the Internet were compared with an educational intervention (EDU) in an RCT. Sixty-five children and adolescents (mean age: 12.7 years) with recurrent headache (at least 2 attacks per month) were each assigned to one of the three treatment conditions. The main outcome variables related to changes in headache frequency, intensity and duration as well as the responder rate (50% reduction of headache frequency) and NNTs. Secondary outcome variables were pain catastrophizing and general well-being (depression, psychopathological symptoms and health-related quality of life). All groups showed significant reduction in headache frequency, duration and pain catastrophizing, but not in headache intensity, depression, psychopathological symptoms or health-related quality of life at post-assessment. NNTs were 2.0 for the comparison CBT and EDU; 5.2 for the comparison of AR and EDU at post-treatment. The highest responder rates at post were from CBT (63%), significantly different compared to AR (32%) and EDU (19%), whereas at follow-up no significant differences were found (CBT: 63%, AR: 56%, EDU: 55%) reflecting in the NNTs. The effects remain stable in headache frequency, pain catastrophizing and psychopathological symptoms across all groups at follow-up assessment. CBT showed the highest within-effect size in headache frequency, duration and pain catastrophizing. The results support the use of Internet programs for pediatric recurrent headache, especially given their accessibility and suitability for children and adolescents. Further studies are needed to improve their quality and efficacy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Education / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management
  • Quality of Life
  • Recurrence
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods*
  • Tension-Type Headache / psychology
  • Tension-Type Headache / therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome