Chronic pain is something we usually associate with adults. But did you know that a staggering 20 percent of children experience recurring pain? It is an issue that often goes unnoticed, unfortunately.
Unlike adults, whose pain is often caused by injuries, chronic pain in children often stems from environmental factors such as emotional stress and dietary patterns. The most common disorders are headaches and abdominal pain, followed by musculoskeletal injuries and back pain. These conditions can totally disrupt some of the most important aspects of a child’s life, including school engagement, mood, and extracurricular activities.
Does your child experience chronic pain? Make an appointment with a pediatrician to rule out dangerous conditions or those that can be treated. Remember that pain is the main way our body tells us that something is wrong.
Once serious conditions are ruled out, there are some simple ways to help your child manage their pain.
Headaches are a common complaint and although migraine headaches are not the only types of headaches children get, they are the most disabling. Children with migraines do better with established routines. It’s important for kids who experience chronic headaches to have sleep and wake schedules, regular meals and snacks that are low in fats and sugars, and to exercise daily.
For abdominal pain in particular, it’s important to look at diet and to consider how much fibre and fluid the child consumes. It can also be helpful to keep a food diary to keep track of patterns and help you pinpoint what might be causing the pain.
The most common food triggers for headaches are caffeine, artificial sweeteners and tyramine (aged cheeses, smoked fish, cured meats).
Psychological factors can play a role in chronic pain. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a potent therapeutic tool that is backed by numerous studies and is effective for managing pain in children. Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, can also be valuable as part of a comprehensive approach to pain management.
Children spend a lot of their lives at school, so it’s important to collaborate with your child’s teachers. You can work out a plan to accommodate pain-related absences and make sure your child gets any lessons and assignments they might miss. This can foster a nurturing educational environment that aids a child's growth despite the challenges posed by chronic pain.
Dr. Grigory Karmy, is the renowned Medical Director of Karmy Clinic and an Adjunct Professor at McMaster University, Department of Family Medicine. As Medical Director of one of the oldest clinics in Ontario, he is a leading authority on pain management and regenerative medicine who has been at the forefront of chronic pain management for over two decades. Dr. Karmy, with his exceptional qualifications and expertise, has been instrumental in spearheading innovative approaches to alleviate pain and enhance patients’ quality of life.
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