Headache in Pediatric Patients: Treating with Biofeedback, a Q&A with Becky Kajander, CPNP

Becky is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who works closely with our pediatric neurologists and specializes in non-pharmacological management of a variety of conditions, including headache.  In this Question and Answer session, she answers some questions about treating headache in pediatric patients with biofeedback, relaxation imagery, and healthy lifestyle choices.  





Q. What percentage of the pediatric patients you work with are headache patients? 

A.         90%. 

Q. What exactly is biofeedback?

A.         Biofeedback is the use of technology – often, but not always, a computer to measure, record, and give back information to the person about various physiologic functions.

We have biofeedback equipment in our every day world – a mirror, scale, thermometer, MRI machine, and blood pressure cuff all give information about our bodies.

Neurofeedback records the speed of brain waves.

Q. Are there certain types of headaches that respond best to biofeedback training?

A.         Biofeedback can be part of a comprehensive program that helps a patient reduce the number, severity or impairment of all types of headaches.

Tension headaches and migraine headaches (or both) can be mitigated with biofeedback.

Q. How does it help patients manage headaches in particular?

A.         Biofeedback helps the patient relax and balance the sympathetic (stress) and parasympathetic (relax) parts of the nervous system.  The person can learn to breathe using their diaphragm, relax muscles, slow down the heart rate, warm their hands and decrease perspiration.            

Q. How many appointments are typical to learn the self-regulation techniques necessary to manage headache symptoms/triggers?

A.         I start with 7 appointments – 1 new consult (1 hour) and 6 (40 minute) training sessions.

Some patients are seen monthly for review or to learn to generalize the self-regulation skills to other problems in their life.

Q. Are there any side effects?

A.         No.

Q. What other self-regulation skills do you teach alongside biofeedback?

A.         I explore how patients use many different self-regulation skills to help themselves feel their best. 

We all self-regulate in many ways – eating well, sleep, activity, spirituality, self-talk, art, etc.

I also teach some aromatherapy and acupressure points.

Q. Are these best used in conjunction, or does one skill usually work well on its own for some patients?

A.         All people are individuals so no one skill or process works for everyone.  Also the skills build on one another – when we breathe in a relaxing way, muscles relax.  When we switch from a negative thought to a positive thought, it turns off the stress response.  When we smell something pleasing, it increases the relaxation response.

Q. Are there any other common questions you get from patients or parents coming in for their first session?

A.         ‘What is biofeedback?  Will it hurt?  Will it help other things?  Do I have to practice?” 

Biofeedback does not hurt.  During a session, small sensors that have sticky backs are placed on the skin.

Just like when kids go to soccer practice to learn the skills, the more the breathing, muscle relaxation, hand warming, imagery, self-talk, heart calming is practiced when the person feels fine and calm, the easier it will be for them to recall and use the skills when they are needed most.

Thank you Becky for providing us with some great information! 

To learn more about Becky Kajander and how she works with her patients, visit her video bio at: http://www.noranclinic.com/providers/rebecca_kajander.html 

If you have additional questions about pediatric headaches or biofeedback and would like to schedule your child for an appointment with a pediatric neurologist, please contact Noran Neurological Clinic at 612-879-1500.


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