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Study Shows Links of Childhood Pain to Adult Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia

  [ 12 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • December 26, 2013

Study Shows Links of Childhood Pain to Adult Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia. Image by
Image by "Ambro" courtesy of

Newswise — CHICAGO, Dec. 19, 2013 -- There is strong evidence showing that individuals who experienced chronic pain during childhood have chronic pain as adults, but few studies have evaluated the characteristics of pain that persists from childhood through adult years. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that one in six adult pain patients had pain as children or adolescents, and their pain was widespread and neuropathic with psychological comorbidities and decreased function. The findings were reported in The Journal of Pain, a publication of the American Pain Society.

For the study, more than 1,000 patients 18 years and older were evaluated and asked about pain, family history, physical and psychological limitations and treatment history. They also were asked about childhood pain. The authors hypothesized that adult patients who reported having pain in childhood are more likely to experience pain of greater severity that is neuropathic in nature and meets clinical criteria for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

Results showed that one in six new adult pain patients said they had a history of chronic pain in childhood and they were predominantly young females. Their pain tended to be more widespread, and neuropathic, likely fibromyalgia, in contrast with subjects who denied having childhood pain. Patients who experienced childhood pain also showed higher levels of anxiety and worse functional status.

About the American Pain Society: Based in Chicago, the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering. APS was founded in 1978 with 510 charter members. From the outset, the group was conceived as a multidisciplinary organization. The Board of Directors includes physicians, nurses, psychologists, basic scientists, pharmacists, policy analysts and others. For more information on APS, visit


Reports of Chronic Pain in Childhood and Adolescence Among Patients at a Tertiary Care Pain Clinic

By Afton L.  Hassett, et al.

Although chronic pain in childhood can last into adulthood, few studies have evaluated the characteristics of adults with chronic pain who report childhood chronic pain. Thus, 1,045 new patients (mean age, 49.5 ± 15.4) at an academic tertiary care pain clinic were prospectively evaluated using validated self-report questionnaires. Patients also responded to questions about childhood pain.

  • We found that almost 17% (n = 176) of adult chronic pain patients reported a history of chronic pain in childhood or adolescence, with close to 80% indicating that the pain in childhood continues today.

  • Adults reporting childhood chronic pain were predominantly female (68%), commonly reported widespread pain (85%), and had almost 3 times the odds of meeting survey criteria for fibromyalgia (odds ratio [OR] = 2.94, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.04–4.23) than those denying childhood chronic pain.

  • Similarly, those with childhood pain had twice the odds of having biological relatives with chronic pain (OR = 2.03, 95% CI  = 1.39–2.96) and almost 3 times the odds of having relatives with psychiatric illness (OR = 2.85, 95% CI = 1.97–4.11).

  • Lastly, compared to patients who did not report childhood chronic pain, those who did were more likely to use neuropathic descriptors for their pain (OR = 1.82, 95% CI = 1.26–2.64), have slightly worse functional status (B  =  ?2.12, t  =  ?3.10, P = .002), and have increased anxiety (OR = 1.77, 95% CI = 1.24–2.52).

Perspective: Our study revealed that 1 in 6 adult pain patients reported pain that dated back to childhood or adolescence. In such patients, evidence suggested that their pain was more likely to be widespread, neuropathic in nature, and accompanied by psychological comorbidities and decreased functional status.

Source: The Journal of Pain, November 14, 2013. By Afton L. Hassett, Paul E. Hilliard, Jenna Goesling, Daniel J. Clauw, Steven E. Harte and Chad M. Brummett.

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