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New World Health Organization Guidelines Address Childhood Chronic Pain

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has released new guidelines that address children who live with chronic pain and how to manage it. The guidance detailed in a report published on Monday emphasizes the burden chronic pain places on young ones who experience it, how little is understood about the issue and improving quality of life.

According to WHO, studies suggest that about one in three or four children around the world live with chronic pain, although the exact figure is not known. In the U.S., the number is estimated to be somewhere between 15 and 18%. Indeed, the burden of chronic pain among children seems to be difficult to determine, not only in its prevalence, but also in its causes.

One study looking at the causes of pain in the general population showed a large range when it came to the rate of prevalence. Scientists found that when it came to headaches, for example, the incidence was anywhere between 8 and 83%.

But despite the unknowns of chronic pain in the younger population, WHO is laying out the framework for a plan of action, saying:

Children and adolescents have the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and the appropriate, high-quality treatments to manage their pain. Care for children with chronic pain must be child- and family-centered and included in all universal health coverage schemes.

WHO explained that a lack of research as well as important differences between children and adults make treating pain more complicated. “Chronic pain in children and adolescents impacts all aspects of the child’s and family’s life, and interventions must therefore address this.”

The report states care for those 0-19 years old should focus on three areas — physical therapy, psychological therapy and pharmacological management. The guidelines also give attention to the issue of the opioid epidemic and how to effectively treat children without exacerbating the risk for addiction.

You can read the full set of guidelines here and learn more about chronic illness and pain among children by visiting the Coalition Against Pediatric pain.

Header image via fizkes/Getty Images

Originally published: February 3, 2021
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