Doctors finding ways to deal with chronic pain in children

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Nearly one out of every four children also suffer from it and it's only in the last few years that many options have been available to help. (KFSN)

When you hear about chronic pain you usually think it relates to adults. But nearly one out of every four children also suffer from it and it's only in the last few years that many options have been available to help.

For months Nine-year-old Sophie Harry suffered from chronic pain caused by severe stomach aches that sometimes kept her out of school.

"It felt like pressure on my stomach all the time."

"It was stressful because she lost like eight pounds in a month and nobody seemed to be able to put their finger on it," said Gretchen Harry, Sophie's mother.

Sophie is not alone as chronic pain affects 20 to 30-percent of children. Most patients suffer from stomach and headaches as well as back, neck, and muscle pain. A pediatric pain director said there can be several causes.

"There are medical, physical, and psychological, behavioral, and social factors that contribute to the development of chronic pain in children," said Dr. Caitlin Neri, pediatrician.

Sophie's stomach aches were attributed in part to stress. So she participates in one of a growing number of pediatric pain clinics. It's a new trend in chronic pain care for kids and a far cry from the traditional approach which focused more on just searching for the cause of pain.

"If you had a medical evaluation and nothing is wrong with you then you're faking, or you need to a psychologist. That is not our approach," said Dr. Neri.

These days it's a multi-disciplinary approach with several specialists working together to help children manage their pain. The use medicine when needed but also techniques like acupressure, or acupuncture, relaxation, hypnosis, yoga, along with physical, behavioral, and aromatherapy.

"It's not any one thing. I can't just fix this with one pill or any sort of magic wand. It's hard work and you have to engage in all these things in order to be successful," said Dr. Neri.

Pain plans can also include deep breathing and learning coping skills to manage anxiety.

"It helps kids dial down their pain and get power over their pain," said Dr. Neri.

Doctors said getting the family and even school involved is also key.

"I think it's been so wonderful, it's been such a relief," said Gretchen.

With these pain management tools, Sophie said she's ready for anything.

"Nothing can stop me. Nothing can stop you."

While there have been studies done on this multi-disciplinary approach, many doctors agree more research is needed but the results so far are encouraging.
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