Acute Lack of Services for Children in Pain

Armen Hareyan's picture

Chronic Pain Treatment

Almost half a million children and teenagers in the UK experience chronic pain but there are not enough NHS services to help treat them, says the head of the Bath Pain Management Unit on Global Day Against Pain (Monday 17 October 2005).

Research suggests that as many as eight per cent of children experience severe headaches, stomach cramps or musculoskeletal pain that keeps them away from school regularly.

But the absence of specialist paediatric pain services in most hospital trusts means children who need help managing and living with their pain are not being supported.

Professor Christopher Eccleston, Director of the Bath Pain Management Unit based at the University of Bath and the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, is using the Global Day Against Pain to call for more specialist pain services for children and adolescents.

"Many people used to think that chronic pain was a uniquely adult problem, but almost half a million children report severe or recurrent pain," said Professor Eccleston.


"These children experience high levels of distress, have more mental health and social problems, and tend to do worse academically than those without pain."

"They also use more health services and are absent from school more often, so there are financial implications for parents, the health service and the nation too."

"Research suggests that children who experience chronic pain are more likely to become adults with chronic pain, so there are long-term consequences for the lack of support for this condition."

The Bath Pain Management Unit has been treating children and adolescents for the last six years. The team of doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists run intensive treatment programmes for children and their parents or carers covering exercise, leisure, school, self management, pain education and lifestyle.

Three months after programme young people are significantly fitter, are less distressed, judge themselves to be less disabled and are more active. Almost all can learn more and most can return to a mainstream school.

"Although adolescent pain is a major problem with long term consequences, there is a paucity in services to help those most at need," said Professor Eccleston.

"Pain in children can be treated, there just needs to be better support to improve the service provision for adolescents with chronic pain."