Every child will experience pain at one time or another, whether it is from everyday bumps and bruises, or due to more chronic conditions. One of the most frequent type of pain in children is headache, both tension and migraine. It is estimated that 20% of all pain in children is head pain, with migraine frequency increasing with age.
Abdominal pain is the second most frequent type of chronic pain in children. Its incidence varies from 10% to 18%, with it most frequently occurring between the ages of 8 to 10 years.
The third most frequent recurrent pain found in children generally is called limb or growing pain. This type of pain usually occurs between the ages of 8 and 12 years, and it affects about 4% to 15% of the children in this age range.
If left unaddressed, chronic pain can affect children in ways that will follow them throughout their lives. They can develop emotional and psychological scars from their pain that can taint future choices concerning their lives and health care. It’s important to look out for and recognise potential pain in children.
Symptoms may include:
- Favouring one arm or leg over the other.
- A decrease in physical activity.
- Changes in appetite or sleep pattern.
- Avoiding contact with other children.
- Crankiness, irritability, or unruly behaviour.
- Nonverbal expressions of pain such as gasping, wincing, or frowning.
- Physical cues like dull eyes, flushed skin, rapid breathing, or sweating.
- Another way to help your children is to go over the lists of words with them that express pain, so they can use the words that best show what they feel, like “sore,” “itchy,” “burning,” and “aching.”
- Do not rely on just the verbal: Ask children to point to their bodies to show where they hurt and how the pain travels through them.
What can I do?
An optimal pain management plan should consist of non-pharmacologic approaches in addition to medication, regardless of the type of pain. Many simple techniques, such as relaxation and breathing exercises, for example, have been found to work synergistically with pain medications to achieve optimal relief.
The use of massage and therapeutic touch has been found to be useful to providers who have experience working with children Parents and providers should realize that children are more sensitive to physical contact compared to adults.
- Mathews, L. (2011). Pain in Children: Neglected, Unaddressed and Mismanaged. Indian Journal of Palliative Care, 17(Suppl),70-73. https://doi:10.4103/0973-1075.76247
- Olson, KA. (2019). Pain in Children. https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/pain/pain-children