Kids and Tension Headaches: Biofeedback Cards

Hand temperature reveals stress
hand prints of children in different colors

Kids can stress out as much as adults do — and develop tension headaches as a result. But doctors are finding new ways to help kids with stress and headaches: checking the temperature of their hands.

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Pediatric psychologist Ethan Benore, PhD, says temperature biofeedback cards can help because cold hands are typically a sign of stress.

Testing relaxation methods

If the biofeedback card shows their hands are cold, “they might practice one of several relaxation strategies that they’ve learned,” says Dr. Benore. “They might then go back several minutes later to see if the temperature in their hands is raised.

“It’s almost a validity check to show they have really changed what is happening inside their body by doing these relaxation exercises.”

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Why cold hands are a sign of stress

Stress causes blood to be drawn inward, away from the muscles in our hands, which causes them to cool.

If they get a “cold” reading, the kids are taught to implement one of the stress-reducing techniques listed on the card’s back. Techniques range from deep-breathing to visualization but have the same goal: reduce the stress and control the headache.

“One goal could be to keep the child off of meds if the child or the family do not prefer medications,” Dr. Benore says.

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Biofeedback also works very well as a complement with other medical treatments.

Dr. Benore says if headaches continually disrupt your child’s day, talk to your pediatrician or neurologist about prevention methods.

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