How to tell when a child is in chronic pain

In Pain Management

Young children are often overwhelmed by the world. They live in a place where everything is more significant than them and new. They are also equipped with limited communication skills, which makes navigating their world much more strange and complex—one of the hardest things for kids is to communicate with their parents is pain. 

Your child may not know how to express pain because they don’t understand what is happening. When the cause of pain is apparent, such as a cut or fall, they know to cry and run to mom or dad for help. But when the pain is internal or chronic, they likely don’t understand what is wrong or how to fix it. This can lead to months of behavioral problems that cause frustration for both parent and child. 

As caretakers, we can often find it difficult to distinguish between real pain and purely emotional crying. It is usual for children to call or be fussy over mild emotional hurdles because they are not well-practiced in navigating their emotions. However, chronic pain can mask itself in these normal childhood behaviors and go undiagnosed at no fault to the parent or child. 

Hidden Signs of Pain in Children

While diagnosing chronic or genetic causes of pain in children is difficult, there are tell-tale signs you can look out for that may indicate an internal issue: 

  • They cry or moan when touched or picked up with no apparent cause. This often causes parents to think they want to be left alone, but this is rarely the case, even for shy children.  
  • They are often restless or moody even after a fun day 
  • They hold onto a particular part of the body a lot
  • They avoid moving a specific part of the body
  • Your infant has a sudden change in crying patterns
  • They have a fever or are sweating but show no other signs of a cold or flu
  • They are breathing fast or have a rapid heartbeat
  • They are frowning or are quieter than usual; any changes in personality should be taken seriously as they could indicate a variety of health or emotional issues
  • They refuse to play with other children or are more careful than usual
  • They are often overstimulated or hold their hands over their ears in louder settings

How To Talk To Your Child About Pain

Talking to your child about pain is often more difficult than diagnosing it in the first place. They may not understand what is going on or maybe reluctant to talk about it if the pain happened after an accident. You can make this easier by asking them questions like: 

  • Where is the darling? Can you point the doll to where it hurts on you?
  • What makes the pain worse? What makes it better? 
  • Did something happen that caused it to hurt? 

If you suspect your child may have an internal injury or a chronic pain issue, take them to the pediatrician immediately. They may refer you to a pain specialist like PPOA to treat joint or bone issues, which can significantly improve your child’s quality of life and development.

To learn more about chronic pain in children, contact your local PPOA clinic today. 


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