Young Ladies Say Ouch

Chronic pain among children affects girls more than boys

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Living in pain is a terrible fate at any age, but it's particularly tragic for a child. Chronic pain can keep a child from developing along with their peers. And it's becoming more common.

A new study has found that chronic pain during childhood and adolescence has become more common over the past decades. Canadian researchers found that girls were more affected than boys by pain unrelated to a disease. They also discovered that the prevalence – or how common it is for people to experience pain – went up with age.

"Talk to a doctor if your child is experiencing chronic pain."

The study was led by Dr. Sara King, currently an Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She and her colleagues reviewed 32 studies on children and chronic pain published between 1991 and 2009.

The studies were categorized into types of pain, including headache, abdominal pain, back pain, musculoskeletal pain, combined pain, and general pain. They found that headaches was the most common type of pain experienced, with a prevalence of 23 percent.

Other types of pain were less well studied, but they are still common. Prevalence ranges from 11 to 38 percent among children and adolescents.

Dr. King said her research suggests that rates of chronic pain have gone up over the past few decades.

Pain was more common in girls than boys, and went up with age. Lower socioeconomic status was also associated with higher prevalence of pain.

Chronic pain has a big impact on a child's life and development. Pain may cause them to miss school, miss out on social activities, and have anxiety, depression, and low-self esteem.

The study authors concluded that researchers and clinicians should be more aware of the scope of the problem, and the long-term consequences.

In their review of the literature on chronic pain in children, they found that there were varying definitions of pain and ways to measure pain intensity, frequency, and duration. It was challenging to compare these studies to each other, resulting in high variability in prevalence rates.

The study was published in the journal Pain in December 2011.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 9, 2011
Last Updated:
December 11, 2011