Chronic Pain Common in Children

Chronic Pain Common in Children

23% of children experience weekly headaches. Photo by: Sasha Wolff

A new study shows that chronic pain is common in children and that girls suffer more often from chronic pain than boys.

Researchers in Nova Scotia reviewed 32 studies on pain in children and found that headaches were the most common complaint. 23% of children between the ages of 7-18 had weekly headaches and 5% daily headaches. Abdominal pain, back pain and musculoskeletal pain were common, too. Overall, between 11% and 38% of children in the studies experienced some type of chronic pain.

“These rates are of great concern, but what is even more concerning is that research suggests that the prevalence rates of children have increased over the last several decades,” said lead investigator Sara King, PhD, Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. “We found that persistent and recurrent chronic pain is overwhelmingly prevalent in children and adolescents, with girls generally experiencing more pain than boys and prevalence rates increasing with age. Findings such as these argue that researchers and clinicians should be aware of the problem and the long-term consequences of chronic pain in children.”

Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists or progresses over a long period of time and is often resistant to medical treatments. Persistent or recurring pain may cause children to miss school, become less social and puts them at a greater risk of developing anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

Although the causes aren’t always known, chronic pain could be triggered by a number of different medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, migraine, fibromyalgia, cancer, shingles, sciatica, and previous trauma or injury. Chronic pain may worsen in response to environmental or psychological factors.

While the method for describing pain intensity has improved, chronic pain in children is escalating and long-term effects can grow into adulthood. Finding the causes of chronic pain can help lessen negative long-term effects for them when they reach maturity.

Understanding pain patterns in children may ease their suffering and help explain how and why adult chronic pain occurs. “Results of this review indicate that persistent and recurrent chronic pain is overwhelmingly prevalent in children and adolescents and should be recognized as a major health concern in this population,” the authors said.

Their study appears in the December issue of the journal Pain.

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Authored by: Lauren Emery