Children suffering from chronic pain

By Sheryl Kay • Published: March 5th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s not unusual to get an assortment of aches and pains as you age, but research now shows that persistent pain is also prevalent in young people, with girls suffering from more chronic twinges than boys.

Having not visited the subject in almost two decades, researchers recently took a comprehensive look at more than 30 previous studies of pain in adolescents dating back 20 years.

Overall, headaches were found to be the most common type of pain studied in youth. Reports show that almost one-quarter of teenagers experience painful headaches. Other symptoms of chronic pain, including those felt in the abdomen, back and musculoskeletal system, were studied less frequently, so the incidence rates for these conditions were not complete.

Still, the numbers reveal that between 11 and 38 percent of young people experienced some sort of pain in their teens, and the rates seemed to increase every decade. Girls also suffer disproportionately to boys, though researchers could not isolate the reasons for the gender differences.

Several factors seemed to impact how often adolescents experienced pain, including apprehension, despair, low self-confidence and lower socioeconomic status. Experts say it is a vicious cycle. Experiencing chronic pain can lead to anxiety and depression, which can in turn worsen pain. The frequency of pain also increased with age.

The researchers did find areas for improvement when it comes to studying pain in children, though, like implementing a more uniform definition of pain and finding more accurate ways to measure pain intensity. Also, understanding the demographic and psychosocial factors linked to higher rates of specific types of pain will help investigators pinpoint key areas for future research. And these types of breakthroughs could lead to better treatments for teens and, perhaps, a little less pain.