Researchers and clinicians are forever searching for the reasons for chronic pain. Is it something with its origins in the neurobiology of a given sufferer? Is psychopathology the often-denied nidus of chronic pain? Or does chronic pain grow up with the individual—actually, the child?
A study published in the journal “Spine” in 1995 found that lower back pain in 14-year-old children foretold chronic low back, disability and hospitalization by the time they were 40-year-old adults. Another study, published in 2007 in “Arthritis and Rheumatism,” concluded that pain symptoms of seven-year-old children increased the risk of chronic diffuse pain when these individuals reached middle age.
However, the study of children’s pain is encumbered by the moving target of child development: how a child experiences and describes pain at age six is quite different compared to the pain experiences and the self-reported description of the pain by a teen-ager.
But studies of pain in children can be challenging, as such non-therapeutic research raises all sorts of ethical concerns: The absence of direct benefit can be problematic when trying to have a study approved by the local ethics board.