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Chronic Pain, Pediatric

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Aug.09.2023
Chronic Pain, Pediatric

Chronic Pain, Pediatric

Chronic pain is a type of pain that lasts or keeps coming back for at least 3–6 months. Your child may have headaches, pain in the abdomen, or pain in other areas of the body. Chronic pain may be related to an illness, injury, or a health condition. Sometimes, the cause of chronic pain is not known.

Chronic pain can make it hard for your child to do daily activities. If it is not treated, chronic pain can lead to anxiety and depression. Treatment depends on the cause of your child's pain and how severe it is. Your child may need to work with a pediatric pain specialist to create a treatment plan. Many children benefit from two or more types of treatment to control their pain.

Follow these instructions at home:

Treatment plan

Follow your child's treatment plan as told by your child's health care provider. This may include:
  • Gentle, regular exercise.
  • Having your child eat a healthy diet that includes foods such as vegetables, fruits, fish, and lean meats.
  • Mental health therapy (cognitive or behavioral therapy) that changes the way your child thinks or acts in response to the pain. This may improve how your child feels.
  • Doing physical therapy exercises to improve movement and strength.
  • Meditation, yoga, acupuncture, or massage therapy.
  • Using the oils from plants in your child's environment (aromatherapy).

Other treatments may include:
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medicine.
  • Color, light, or sound therapy.
  • Local electrical stimulation. The electrical pulses help to relieve pain by temporarily stopping the nerve impulses that cause your child to feel pain.
  • Injections. These deliver numbing or pain-relieving medicines into the spine or the area of pain.

Medicines

  • Give over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child's health care provider.
  • Do not give your child aspirin because of the link to Reye's syndrome.
  • Ask the health care provider if the medicine prescribed to your child:
    • Requires your child to avoid driving or using machinery.
    • Can cause constipation. You may need to take these actions to prevent or treat constipation:
      • Have your child drink enough fluid to keep their urine pale yellow.
      • Give over-the-counter or prescription medicines.
      • Give foods that are high in fiber, such as beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
      • Limit foods that are high in fat and processed sugars, such as fried or sweet foods.

Lifestyle

A child talking with a mental health specialist.
  • Ask your child's health care provider whether you or your child should keep a pain diary. The health care provider will tell you what information to write in the diary. This may include:
    • When your child has pain.
    • What the pain feels like.
    • How medicines and other behaviors or treatments help to reduce the pain.
  • Consider having your child talk with a mental health specialist about ways to help manage chronic pain.
  • Consider having your child join a chronic pain support group.
  • Help your child control or lower their stress levels. Talk with the health care provider about ways to do this.
  • Let your child's teachers and other caregivers know your child has chronic pain.

General instructions

  • Learn as much as you can about how to manage your child's chronic pain. Ask your child's health care provider if an intensive pain rehabilitation program or a chronic pain specialist would help.
  • Check your child's pain level as told by your child's health care provider. Ask the health care provider if you can use a pain scale to determine your child's pain level.
    • For young children, consider using a rating system with pictures of faces.
    • Older children can use a number system to rate their pain.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your child's pain is not controlled with treatment.
  • Your child has new pain.
  • Your child feels weak or has trouble doing their normal activities.
  • Your child has trouble sleeping or develops confusion.
  • Your child has side effects from pain medicine.
  • Your child loses feeling or has numbness in their body.
  • You notice any other changes that show that your child's condition is getting worse.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child's pain suddenly gets much worse.
  • Your child develops chest pain.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or has shortness of breath.
  • Your child faints.

These symptoms may be an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get help right away. Call 911.

Also, get help right away if:
  • Your child has thoughts of self-harm or of hurting others.

Take one of these steps if you feel like your child may hurt themselves or others, or if they have thoughts about taking their own life:
  • Go to your nearest emergency room.
  • Call 911.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 988. This is open 24 hours a day.
  • Text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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