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Pain in children

Transitional pain

Transitional pain is most common after your child has surgery. It happens when acute pain doesn't stop and causes changes in the nervous system.

Many things can affect if your child will have transitional pain, for example:

  • pain your child had before surgery
  • the type of pain and where it is
  • how long the surgery takes
  • how the surgery is done
  • the recovery process​

When transitional pain has continued for 3 months after surgery, it becomes chronic pain. This is pain lasts for more than 3 months and affects daily activities and quality of life for your child and your family.

Treating and managing transitional pain

Treatments for both your child's body (physical) and mental health can help with transitional pain.

Physical treatments

When acute pain transitions to chronic pain, physiotherapy can help with pain. A physiotherapist can guide your child on to how to safely become stronger and more flexible.

Physiotherapy may include an exercise program, hands-on treatment of the sore areas, ice or heat, and electrical stimulation.

Massage therapy may also help with your child's transitional pain. It can also lower stress and help your child relax.

Mental health treatments

Transitional pain can make your child feel angry, sad, or hopeless. A mental health professional—such as a trained counsellor, registered psychologist, or psychiatrist—can work with your child to help them cope and manage their feelings. When your child is coping well, they may have less pain.

Mental health treatments may include:


Depending on the stage of transitional pain, medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help to treat chronic pain.

Other medicines that are not normally prescribed for pain, such as anticonvulsants and antidepressants, may also be prescribed for long-term chronic pain.

Opioids are not recommended for most types of transitional and chronic pain. They can have harmful side effects if your child takes them for a long time.

Preventing transitional pain

To prevent transitional pain, it's important to prevent acute pain from happening. If acute pain does happen, it's important to manage it right away before it becomes chronic pain.

Talk to your healthcare provider about what to do if your child's pain continues longer than expected after surgery or after their injury has healed. Addressing transitional pain as soon as possible and with the right supports can help your child avoid chronic pain.​​

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