Chronic pain is defined as a condition of pain that persists rather than getting better. The nervous system can sometimes become oversensitized to the pain signals, and they keep firing for weeks, months, or sometimes years. Chronic pain in children has been defined as pain lasting for longer than three months. It is a pain that persists beyond the time when healing would naturally occur.
When a person’s pain persists, the experience of chronic pain can become the primary problem itself. Because the healing phase is over, chronic pain messages are not linked to an injury, as in acute pain, and so no longer serve a purpose. The nerves continue to fire pain signals in the absence of any reason for it.
It is rare for a child to suffer from chronic pain, but it does happen. Children in long-term pain may be disabled by it to varying degrees, from mild to severe. Chronic pain impacts their mobility, concentration, sleep, mood, school attendance, abilities to engage in hobbies and sports and their social connections.
Chronic pain is a complex phenomena that isn’t fully understood. The degree of disability a person suffers may not be wholly related to the amount of tissue damage in the original injury or the perceived severity of the pain. Biological, psychological, developmental, social and cultural factors all play a large part in the experience of chronic pain, its severity, the reaction to it and the amount of disability it may cause.
Because there are many components to chronic pain, the most effective management entails a team-based treatment approach. A combination of medication, psychotherapy, and physical techniques may be used to manage the pain.
Psychotherapy is a proven method of treatment for pain sufferers when combined with appropriate medical treatment and ongoing self-care. Psychotherapy can help to ease the emotional suffering that accompanies the experience of pain, as well as treat any underlying trauma symptoms from accident or injury. By treating anxiety, trauma, depression and the host of emotional secondary symptoms of pain and illness, the body’s central sensitivity, or over-activation, can be calmed and pain can often be decreased. As well, a trained psychotherapist can offer support to families and partners of those suffering pain.