Chronic pain in children isn’t something you think about when you watch them fly down the soccer field or soar through the air on a swing. After all, isn’t chronic pain a problem that only adults get?
Unfortunately, a new study by Canadian researchers recently published in the December 2011 issue of Pain® revealed that chronic pain in children and adolescents is becoming more common.
“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,” said lead investigator Sara King, PhD, currently Assistant Professor, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. “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.”
The researchers examined data from 41 studies on pain in children that were published since 1991. The last study of this kind was done in 1991.
Types of Chronic Pain in Children
The researchers also evaluated 32 studies to categorize them according to the type of pain investigated. The categories of pain were:
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Combined pain
- General pain
Headache pain was found to be the most common, with about 23% prevalence. The other pain categories were less studied than headaches in children so the prevalence rates varied. But the results did indicate that 11% to 38% of children and adolescents suffer in at least one of these pain categories.
While the fact that children suffer from chronic pain is alarming enough, of even more concern it the fact that there has been an increase in the number of children with chronic pain over the last 20 to 30 years.
Some of the psychosocial factors that that impacted the occurrence of chronic pain in children were:
- Low self-esteem
- Low socioeconomic status
Effects of Chronic Pain in Children
Children who suffer from chronic pain may miss school and withdraw socially. Children in pain are also at a risk of becoming more anxious, especially if no cause is found for their pain.
Chronic pain is any pain, except normal tissue healing, that lasts beyond three months. Is this the growing pains we all went through as a child? No, the chronic pain in children revealed by this study is too prevalent in children and needs to be seen as a major health concern.
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