Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

February 1, 2015

Physical therapy is beneficial for pain disorders in children


maeda_29painrehab_g2Erin Harkins, DPT and the other physical therapists on our team often help kids and teens with pain disorders that impact gross motor activities and tasks. Erin notices more and more literature and research on this topic of chronic pain in children, including a recent Boston Globe article. Erin shares her insights into this condition:

Pain in children is a complex situation.  Due to nervous systems and musculoskeletal systems that are still developing, children‚Äôs and teens‚Äô perception of pain is much different from that of adults.  They are unable to differentiate types of pain ‚Äì sharp, dull, and intensity.  This makes treating pain very challenging in children.  No one wants to see a child in pain!  While some types of pain are straight forward, post-injury for example, there are many other types of pain that require a ‚Äúlittle more digging‚Äù from the therapist.  These include pain resultant from migraines, pain after a virus, pain after surgery, fibromyalgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (chronic regional pain syndrome).  I have treated reflex sympathetic dystrophy in children post-injury.  The most important piece to remember is that even though in x-rays and imaging there appears to ‚Äúbe nothing wrong‚Äù ‚Äì the body is reacting in an acute level of distress.  This impacts both the neuro and muscular systems and the body reacts according with the cardiovascular system as well.  Elusive pain disorders can be very upsetting for families and often the child and family feel like there is no end in site.  The orthopedic doctor may say that there is no reason for the pain, pain specialists offer various techniques to alleviate the pain, and often the child gets lost in the shuffle.  At the young age of these children, being on pain patches or pain pills indefinitely is not a good answer.  Seek out a physical therapist who should work hand-in-hand with a counselor or psychologist who treats pain disorders.  You will be amazed at the ability to retrain the brain and body! 

Read more about our physical therapy services for children with chronic pain here

Our team consists of 6 licensed physical therapists, rather than assistants or aides.  The ladies have vast experience and special expertise including 3 doctoral practitioners, 2 Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT) certified practitioners, 2 Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute (ATRI) certified practitioners, 1 Pediatric Clinical Specialist, as well as many other expanded specialities.