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Managing chronic pain in children

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When assessing a child’s chronic pain, take a full When assessing a child’s chronic pain, take a full medical and pain history before carefully examining the child

Chronic pain in children is common and can be managed effectively in primary care. Pain can occur after a specific event – such as injury or viral infection – or may not have an apparent cause.

Recovery can take time and require significant medical interventions and family support, and sometimes there are no quick solutions to eliminate the pain. Without proper pain management, children may be left with emotional and psychological scars that persist throughout their life.

There is strong evidence to support early psychological and physical treatments, in conjunction with pharmacological treatment.

One important purpose of treatment is to improve the child’s ability to cope with the pain so that they are
able to return to school and a normal quality of life.

The nature of chronic pain is that it is persistent and recurrent, lasting beyond the expected period of recovery. In children, recurrent pain (eg recurrent abdominal pain or headaches) is usually benign and more common than chronic pain.

It is estimated that 20% to 35% of children and adolescents are affected by chronic pain.1 It consists of a variety of pain syndromes.


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