Chronic pain is often considered an adult affliction, but this overlooks a significant number of children and teenagers who suffer from ongoing chronic pain conditions. These younger populations are sometimes underserved, primarily because their pain can be overlooked or misunderstood. Children may not have the vocabulary to articulate their pain accurately, and teenagers may be dismissed as “attention-seeking.” Yet, chronic pain in these age groups is real, impactful, and in need of effective intervention.

Common Types of Chronic Pain in Children and Teens

  • Musculoskeletal Pain:  Musculoskeletal issues, including back pain and joint pain, are common among teenagers, particularly those engaged in sports or physical activities. Repetitive strain injuries can lead to chronic conditions that may affect their performance and daily lives. 
  • Neuropathic Pain: Conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or nerve injuries can lead to chronic neuropathic pain. Though rare, when it occurs, it is incredibly challenging to manage and requires a multidisciplinary approach.
  • Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS): In this condition, children experience extreme pain, often in the limbs, due to an abnormal amplification of nerve signals. It is more common in girls and usually requires an intensive, multidisciplinary treatment approach.
  • Headaches and Migraines: Chronic headaches, including migraines, are another common issue affecting children and teens. Stress, lack of sleep, and hormonal changes can all contribute to the prevalence of headaches in this age group.

Diagnosis Challenges

The diagnosis of chronic pain in children and teenagers involves not only identifying the origin and character of the pain but also recognizing the influence of psychological, social, and environmental factors. Children, especially younger ones, may not be able to communicate their symptoms clearly, making diagnosis difficult.

Clinical evaluation, imaging studies, and other diagnostic tests must be combined with an understanding of the developmental stage of the child. Pediatric pain scales, such as the Wong-Baker Faces Pain Scale, may be employed to gauge pain intensity more effectively.


Chronic Pain in Children and Teens

Treatment of Chronic Pain  in Younger Patients

  • Pharmacological Treatment: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are usually the first line of treatment. For severe cases, opioids may be prescribed with caution due to the potential for addiction and other side effects.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy aims at improving mobility and strength, which can subsequently alleviate pain. It is particularly effective for musculoskeletal and post-injury pain.
  • Psychological Interventions: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in helping children manage the emotional aspects of pain. Mindfulness techniques and biofeedback are also gaining traction.
  • Interventional Pain Management: A medical specialty typically involving a pain management clinic that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain conditions using minimally invasive procedures and techniques like RFA, PRP, Discography and Epidural Injections. It aims to alleviate pain and improve a patient’s quality of life by targeting the source of pain and promoting functional recovery.
  • Multidisciplinary Programs: For conditions like AMPS, a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach involving physical therapists, psychologists, and medical specialists is often the most effective treatment plan.

The Importance of Family Support

The family plays a critical role in a child’s pain management journey. Parental attitudes towards pain, methods of coping, and emotional support can significantly impact how a child experiences and deals with chronic pain. Active family involvement in treatment programs often leads to better outcomes.

Chronic pain in children and teens is an urgent healthcare issue that demands specialized care. By recognizing the unique challenges and types of chronic pain that affect young people, we can better diagnose, treat, and manage these conditions. With early intervention and a multidisciplinary approach, we can offer our young patients a chance for a healthier, less painful future.

Is Your Child Experiencing Pain? Contact Summit Spine & Joint Centers for Pain Management

Our experienced pain specialists can help relieve your child’s pain so they enjoy life again.Call Summit Spine & Joint Centers today at (770) 962-3642 to schedule a consultation with our pain specialists. We now have 26 convenient locations available in Georgia including our featured new location for Pain Management in Newnan, GA.

This article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.