To identify prevalence and patterns of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among youth with recurrent headaches (HA) and evaluate associations with co-occurring health problems and limitations as well as with the use and expenditures for conventional medical care.
Variables were constructed for youth aged 10 to 17 by using linked data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey and the 2008 Medical Expenditures Panel Survey. Bivariate, logistic, and 2-part regression analyses were used.
Of the 10.6% of youth experiencing HA, 29.6% used CAM, rising to 41% for the many HA sufferers who also experienced difficulties with emotions, concentration, behavior, school attendance, or daily activities. Biologically based products (16.2%) and mind-body therapies (13.3%) were most commonly used, especially by the 86.4% of youth with HA experiencing at least 1 other chronic condition. Compared with non-CAM users, youth with HA who used CAM also had higher expenditures for and use of most types of conventional care.
CAM use is most common among youth with HA experiencing multiple chronic conditions and difficulties in daily functioning. Associations among CAM use, multiple chronic conditions, and higher use of conventional care highlight the need for medical providers to routinely ask about CAM use to meet the complex health needs of their patients and facilitate the optimal integration of care. Research is needed to identify models for coordinating complementary and conventional care within a medical home and to understand the health benefits or risks associated with CAM use in conjunction with conventional treatments for patients with HA.