Chronic Pain in Kids: It’s Not All Physical


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Chronic pain – millions of Americans live with it every day.  Mostly older adults, right? Not necessarily. Studies suggest more than thirty percent of children grow up experiencing chronic pain. What causes it? The answer may surprise you.

Emily Wegmann says, “Seeing my friends go out and me trying to keep up with them was very hard.” She grew up in so much pain the simplest movements hurt.

“I couldn’t even get myself dressed. I couldn’t do my hair.” says Emily.

Emily has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It’s one of the most common causes of chronic pain in kids, followed by fibromyalgia, headaches, and those dreaded growing pains. But sometimes pain in children is not just physical.

Aimee Hersh, MD, Pediatric Rheumatologist, Univ. of Utah Health/Primary Children’s Hospital says, “We’ve been seeing more children with chronic pain. I think the pandemic was a huge stressor that’s probably contributed to that in some ways.”

Up to a third of all high school students said they were mentally and physically impacted by the pandemic.

“A lot of the ways that kids express the anxiety, or the stress, or even the depressive symptoms they’re feeling, is in their muscles and joints.” Explains Doctor Hersh.

Pediatric Rheumatologist Aimee Hersh says it’s not uncommon for patients who have mental health conditions to have chronic pain. “I think sometimes that chronic pain piece is sometimes maybe downplayed and that there’s more of a focus on the mental health piece.”

And research shows that a parent’s reaction to their child’s pain is important. In fact, children whose parents became depressed over their child’s condition reported suffering more intense pain, more disability, and a poor quality of life.

But by improving a child’s mental and physical health and also working on their sleep, you can help to ease your child’s pain.

A study out of Seattle Children’s Research Institute showed that children who had less sleep leading up to surgery experienced more intense pain two weeks after their procedures. Another interesting fact: chronic pain is more common in girls than boys. Studies also show that children with chronic pain who stay in school and participate in normal activities are less disabled in the long run.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.


REPORT #3099

BACKGROUND: Chronic pain is a common condition, and one of the most common reasons why someone seeks medical care. Approximately 25 percent of adults in the United States experience chronic pain. It can last months or years and happen in all different parts of the body. It interferes with daily activities, such as working, having a social life, and taking care of yourself or others, and can lead to depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping, which can make the pain worse. The first step in treatment is to find and treat the cause. When that isn’t possible, the most effective approach is a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes. Common types of chronic pain include arthritis, joint pain, back pain, neck pain, headaches, migraines, muscle pain all over (such as with fibromyalgia), neurogenic pain, or damage to the nerves or other parts of the nervous system.


CAUSES AND DIAGNOSIS: Injuries and diseases can cause changes to the body where you are more sensitive to pain. Even after recovery, these changes can stay in place. Anything like a sprain, a broken bone, or a brief infection can leave someone with chronic pain. Some can have chronic pain that’s not related to an injury or physical illness. This response is called psychogenic pain or psychosomatic pain, and is caused by psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Many scientists believe this connection comes from low levels of endorphins in the blood. A doctor may physically examine your body and order tests to look for the cause of the pain. Some of these tests include blood tests, electromyography to test muscle activity,

imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRI, nerve conduction studies to see if your nerves are reacting properly,

reflex and balance tests, spinal fluid tests, and urine tests.


NEW RESEARCH FOR NON-ADDICTIVE TREATMENT: Researchers at UC Davis are trying to create monoclonal antibodies that can help fight chronic pain by developing a monthly non-addictive pain medication that can replace opioids. Professors in the Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology at the UC Davis School of Medicine have assembled a team who are also trying to turn tarantula venom into a pain medication. “Recent breakthroughs in structural and computational biology, using computers to understand and model biological systems, have set the stage for applying new approaches to create antibodies as superior therapeutic candidates to treat chronic pain,” said Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy, the principal investigator for the award. This is the first attempt to generate antibodies aimed at pain relief. The researchers are focused on three specific sodium ion channels associated with pain, where the goal is to create antibodies that can fit into each of these channels like a key into a lock. This targeted approach will plan to stop the channels from sending pain signals but not interfere with other signals sent through the nerve cells.


* For More Information, Contact:

Jennifer Toomer-Cook, MPC

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