Little Stars – Treating chronic pain in children

Categories: In The Media.

With over 8 million children in the United States alone suffering from chronic pain so bad that they regularly miss school, chronic pain has become a huge problem. In this latest Little Stars film, we are introduced to Dr Stefan Friedrichsdorf, a children’s pain expert in Minneapolis, USA, “taking pain away is not really rocket science, it is not that difficult, and we can teach any junior doctor in one or two hours to manage 90% of children with acute pain. However most children’s hospitals have not yet implemented even the standard methods of taking acute pain away.”

Children suffer pain after surgery, injury or infection and for some of these children the pain remains long after the expected time of healing. Dr Friedrichsdorf and his interdisciplinary team that includes a nurse practitioner, physical therapist, social worker and child psychologist treat these children in their unique pain clinic.

Dr Friedrichsdorf leads a consultation with a patient explaining the role of the pain clinic and the various members of the interdisciplinary team. We meet Janice Haines, a nurse practitioner who coordinates the clinic and the patients involved in the programme.  Andrew Warmnth, a physical therapist, works with the children to reduce pain in the long run through physical exercise. Cynthia Daughtry is the resident social worker who works closely with the parents and educates them about parenting a child with chronic pain. Dr Kavita Desai, a child psychologist, helps the child with non-medicinal ways to deal with pain and lastly Dr Friedrichsdorf, the pain doctor examines the child and manages their medication. Dr Friedrichsdorf explains the importance of the interdisciplinary team, “the interdisciplinary team tells us things that we might otherwise miss.”

Effective treatment
Dr Friedrichsdorf explains four important keys to effective chronic pain treatment, firstly is physical exercise, “often what happens, if I’m in pain, is that I actually become less active, and then when I become less active, I’m in more pain, so I become less active. It’s often a vicious cycle. Those kids become, often, very deconditioned and do not do very well. Secondly, he emphasises the importance of the patients learning an active distraction technique. Thirdly he highlights the importance of the patient working closely with the psychologist to minimise stress. Lastly and most importantly is for the patient to normalise their life, Dr Friedrichsdorf explains. “We ask the kids to normalise their life first, before the pain gets better second.”

Dr Friedrichsdorf’s closing lines explain the importance of treating chronic pain, “why do we even bother? It’s just a little bit of pain. We have modern day data showing us that the kids who were actually suffering from pain become adults and adolescents with big pain issues.”

Learn more about how to treat pain in children at

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