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Pain in children

Chronic pain

Chronic pain, or long-term pain, can come from an injury or a health condition. Chronic pain happens when your child's nervous system keeps sending pain signals in their body. The pain continues after their injury has healed or for as long as the illness lasts.

There are many factors that work together to cause chronic pain, which can make it complex to diagnose. Chronic pain is different for every child, and treatments need to meet your child's specific needs. See assessing chronic pain to learn more.

Treating and managing chronic pain

The best way to treat and manage chronic pain is to use different approaches and at the same time. These approaches involve your child's body (physical) and mental health and may use medicine.

Give your child lots of love and support, bring them for regular visits with your healthcare provider, and follow the recommended treatments.

Talk to your healthcare provider about what might work for your child.

Physical treatments

Physical treatment for your child's chronic pain may include the following:

  • Physiotherapy uses regular exercise and movement (such as jumping, walking, or other exercises) to help your child get stronger, more flexible, and have better endurance (they can play and exercise longer). Having a stronger body helps your child move better and have less pain. A physiotherapy may give your child an exercise program to do at home.
  • Occupational therapy builds fine motor skills and coordination to help your child do everyday activities (such as getting dressed and brushing their teeth) them self​.
  • Activity pacing means planning activities around how your child is feeling and making sure they are getting enough rest. Children with chronic pain can live active and healthy lives. Sometimes, you just need to adjust the length or type of activity to better suit them.

Mental health treatments

A healthy and calm mind can help your child feel better in their body. How your child thinks about their chronic pain (perceives it) can be an important part of treatment. Stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts and feelings can make pain worse.

Mental health treatments for chronic pain may include:

  • Relaxation therapy can help your child manage their feelings, calm their mind, and have less pain. Feeling stressed or angry can make your child's pain worse. An example of relaxation therapy is progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing your muscles again and again.
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a common therapy that uses the connections between thoughts, behaviours, feelings, and the body. It helps to change bad thoughts about pain into more positive thoughts, helping your child to feel better.
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction and yoga combines mindfulness with moving your body. It teaches your child to focus on the present moment and where they have pain.
  • Biofeedback-assisted relaxation training helps your child control things their body does automatically. This training gives your child information about their breathing, muscles, skin, and heart, so they can be aware of their body and manage their pain.​

Medicines for chronic pain

Every child's chronic pain is different, and not all medicines will work for every child. Ask your doctor if medicine can help your child's pain and what they recommend. When giving your child medicine, always follow the instructions on the package and talk to your pharmacist if you have questions.

Some children find it hard to take medicines. You can try these tips to help your child take medicine.

Medicines for treating chronic pain may include:

Opioids have harmful side effects when you use them for a long time. They are rarely prescribed to children with chronic pain.

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