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Health Spotlight: Chronic pain in kids

Health Spotlight: Chronic pain in kids

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Chronic pain – millions of Americans live with it every day. Studies suggest more than thirty percent of children grow up with chronic pain.

What causes it? The answer may surprise you.

“Seeing my friends go out and me trying to keep up with them was very hard,” said Emily Wegmann.

Emily Wegmann grew up in so much pain, that the simplest movements caused pain.

“I couldn’t even get myself dressed. I couldn’t do my hair,” said Wegmann.

Emily has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It’s one of the most common causes of chronic pain in kids, followed by fibromyalgia, headaches, and those dreaded growing pains.

Sometimes, the pain in children isn’t just physical.

“We’ve been seeing more children with chronic pain,” said Aimee Hersh, a pediatric rheumatologist with the University Of Utah Health/Primary Children’s Hospital. “I think the pandemic was a huge stressor that’s probably contributed to that in some ways.”

Up to a third of all high school students say they were mentally and physically impacted by the pandemic.

“A lot of the ways that kids express the anxiety, or the stress, or even the depressive symptoms they’re feeling, is in their muscles and joints,” said Hersh.

Hersh says it’s not uncommon for patients who have mental health conditions to have chronic pain.

“I think sometimes that chronic pain piece is sometimes maybe downplayed and that there’s more of a focus on the mental health piece,” said Hersh.

Research shows that how a parent reacts to their child’s pain is important. In fact, parents who became depressed over their child’s condition reported suffering more intense pain, disability, and a poor quality of life.

Improving a child’s mental and physical health while working on their sleep can help to ease their pain.

A study out of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute showed that children who had less sleep leading up to surgery had more intense pain two weeks after their procedures. Another interesting fact: chronic pain is more common in girls than boys. Studies also show that children with chronic pain who stay in school and participate in normal activities are less disabled in the long run.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.