When it’s more than just an ouch! What parents should know

All kids experience pain at some point, whether from injury or illness. For some kids, however, the pain is chronic and doesn’t respond well to treatment. That doesn’t mean there’s no hope.

The past decade has brought a wealth of research and newer technologies, such as brain imaging, which have led not only to increased understanding of the mechanisms underlying chronic pain, but also to new treatments.

Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer, director of the UCLA Pediatric Pain and Palliative Care Program, is co-author of a new book on helping children cope with pain: “Pain in Children and Young Adults: The Journey Back to Normal: Two Pediatricians' Mind-Body Guide for Parents.” Here, she offers parents some guidance.

Q: What are the biggest myths about pediatric pain?

A: Some of the biggest myths include that children complain of pain just to get attention; that kids will get over it; or that pain does not have any long-term impact on the development of chronic pain. Pain is real; and parents should take complaints seriously. Kids may not know how to describe their pain in a way parents understand, so it’s important to listen, ask questions and become advocates for their children.

Q: When should parents seek out a specialist for their child’s pain?

A: Some pain does heal on its own. However, if a child has pain in multiple places in the body or he or she is continuing to have post-injury pain longer than expected, then it’s time to see a pain specialist. Also, if the pediatrician believes there is nothing more he or she can do to help the pain -- or the child is seeing multiple specialists and still not getting better -- that’s a good indicator that a pain specialist may need to step in.

Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer

Q: What approach does a pain specialist take in treating the child?

A: The pathway out of pain is to identify the underlying neurobiologic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral contributors and address all of those within an integrated mind-body approach to treatment. The goal of treatment is to “reprogram” the pain systems that have led to the pain and maintained it. This treatment approach is called “the rehabilitation model of chronic pain treatment” and it’s the one that works.

Q: What can parents learn in your new book?

A: Our book includes information from more than 40 experts in almost every type of pain. We discuss specific pain problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, sports injuries, and many more conditions. We describe physical, psychological, behavioral, and mind-body therapies, as well as “what to do when it seems nothing is working.” We describe strategies for working with the school after the child has had many absences, how to work with insurance companies to get services covered, and many more practical aspects that enhance parents’ abilities to help their child in pain.

Pain in Children and Young Adults: The Journey Back to Normal: Two Pediatricians' Mind-Body Guide for Parents Kindle Edition
by Lonnie Zeltzer, MD (Author), Paul Zeltzer, MD (Author)

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