Children & Young People
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Young people with untreated or poorly treated chronic pain often drop out of school and can become socially withdrawn and isolated.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.
Pain clinics will teach young people about pain and how to manage it effectively using multidisciplinary pain management combined with self-management, modified according to the age of the patient.
Help & Resources
Pain clinics & programs
- National Pain Services Directory: Current list of pain clinics in Australia
- Paediatric pain clinics: Current list of paediatric pain clinics in Australia
- Pain programs: Current list of pain programs and paediatric pain programs in Australia
Websites & reading
- PainBytes: Website for youth with chronic pain (NSW Health)
- Teens & migraine: Free ebook (headachehelp.org.au)
- Headache in children and adolescents (Headache Australia)
- Information about pelvic pain for teens (Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia)
- Visit our Find Support page for more help & resources
- Children's Pain: The Facts (The Children's Hospital at Westmead)
- Tips for parents of teens with pain: 10 tips for parents of children and teens living with persistent pain (Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia)
- Tips for parenting a child with chronic pain (Psychology Today article)
- Information for parents and carers of children and teens with migraine (The Migraine Trust)
- The role of catastrophising in paediatric migraine (Neurology Advisor article)
- Pain after surgery in children and infants (IASP)
Pain Concern: Resources to help families to team up on pain together