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The Experience of Adolescents Living With Headache

Walter, Suzy Mascaro PhD, FNP-BC

doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000224

There is little qualitative literature that addresses the adolescent experience of living with headache. The purpose of this study was to determine the dimensions of the health challenge of adolescent headache; the high points, low points, and turning points of living with headache; and the approaches used to resolve the challenge of living with headache. Story theory was used as the qualitative framework to guide data collection, and story inquiry provided the structure for analyzing the data. The Pediatric Migraine Disability Scale (PedMIDAS) quantitatively measured the impact of headaches on daily functioning. Of the 8 participants, 6 reported moderate to severe disability. From the stories, a theme for the complicating health challenge of living with adolescent headache was “an enduring distress manifested by pain, uncertainty, distancing self from family and friends, challenges with school, and not knowing how to resolve.” Themes descriptive of the high points, low points, and turning points included “Contentment with school achievement, supportive relationships, and comforting engagement”; “Interruption in pursuing sports/exercise, time with others, and family relationships”; and “A developing realization, through hope and insight, of the possibilities for moving toward resolution.” Stories revealed approaches used to resolve the challenge of living with headache, which included self-management through medication, sleep, and transcendence. The findings offer insight into the challenges faced by adolescents with headache and provide evidence of the importance for developing holistic plans of care that address the individual needs of the patient rather than relying on medication management alone.

West Virginia University School of Nursing, Morgantown.

Correspondence: Suzy Mascaro Walter, PhD, FNP-BC, Morgantown Campus, West Virginia University School of Nursing, HSC-South, PO Box 6400, Morgantown, WV 26506 (

The author gratefully acknowledges Dr Mary Jane Smith for her assistance with method, data gathering, and analysis.

This research was made possible through a grant from the Neuroscience Nursing Foundation.

The author has disclosed that she has no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

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