Chronic pain can affect children, adolescents and young adults—however, it may be overlooked in these age groups. Children may lack the communication skills to express how they are feeling; adolescent pain may be dismissed as a symptom of stress; and people tend to assume young people in general are not going to develop a debilitating illness—especially one associated with chronic pain.
As many as one in four children experience chronic pain, and about 5 per cent of children have moderate to severe pain. Headaches, abdominal pain and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome are the most common forms of ongoing childhood pain. Pelvic pain is most common in teenage girls, while older teenage boys are more likely to report musculoskeletal pain. Young adults aged 20 to 24 are more likely than older adults to experience interference in daily activities due to chronic pain.
Young people with untreated or poorly treated chronic pain often drop out of school and can become socially withdrawn and isolated. They are at risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Their families are also affected, with parents missing work, siblings marginalised and the impact of ongoing stress.
For a child experiencing ongoing pain, it is important to have a thorough investigation conducted by a doctor. Should pain persist, families can ask for a referral to a paediatric pain specialist and/or paediatric pain clinic. For people in a regional area, this may require travel to a major city, however, there may be telehealth options available through a local hospital or GP clinic.