The SIG is a Special Interest Group of the International
Association for the Study of Pain®, the world's largest
multidisciplinary organization focused specifically on
pain research and treatment.
The Special Interest Group sponsors the International
Symposium on Pediatric Pain (ISPP).
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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (6-9 July)
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Updated 21 Dec 2017
SIG Position Statement
Priority on Pain in Infants, Children, and Adolescents
Pain relief is a human right, yet pain in children is an
under-recognized problem around the world. The Special
Interest Group on Pain in Childhood of the International
Association for the Study of Pain® is dedicated to
improving pain prevention and treatment for children
Children suffer pain from many
Children not only have pain from life-threatening
diseases such as cancer, but also from injuries, surgery,
burns, infections, and the effects of war, terrorism, and
violence. Children also undergo pain from the many
procedures and investigations used by doctors and nurses
to investigate and treat disease. A large number of
children suffer chronic or recurrent pain.
Children’s pain matters.
Even newborn and premature babies feel pain. Children
remember pain, and may avoid future medical care because
of painful experiences in a hospital or clinic. Untreated
pain suffered early in life can have profound and
long-lasting effects on social and physical development,
and can cause permanent changes in the nervous system that
will affect future pain experience and development. When
children suffer, so do their parents, family, and
caregivers, and caring for a child with chronic pain can
cause the family emotional and financial stress. Chronic
pain may have a better prognosis if treated early in life
than if it is allowed to persist into adulthood.
Children’s pain isn’t treated adequately, even though we
do have the ability to treat or prevent most pain. Most
pain can be either prevented, treated, or at least reduced
using inexpensive medications, psychological, and/or
physical techniques. In spite of this, most children in
the world do not receive adequate treatment.
Why isn’t children’s pain prevented
in the 21st Century?
Children’s pain can be difficult to recognize. Children
may appear to sleep or play even when they have
significant pain, so their pain is not identified. Asking
the child about pain gives the most important information.
Many other assessment tools have been developed for
newborn and young children and children with developmental
disabilities who are unable to report their own pain in
words. Health care providers and parents often worry that
pain medicine will be dangerous for children. In fact,
children can receive most of the same medications as
adults, as long as the dose is adjusted for the size and
age of the child, and for the amount of pain. Children
will not become addicted to strong opioid pain drugs, as
long as they are prescribed appropriately for pain
treatment. In some countries, inexpensive pain drugs are
not available, because of importation or distribution
What do we need to do?
Children’s pain must become a priority for all health
care professionals. Health professionals must be trained
in pain measurement and management techniques that are
specific for infants and children, and there should be an
expectation by children and their parents that pain will
be assessed and managed. Health services officials must
initiate programs to ensure that appropriate medications
and the resources for non-pharmacological management are
available and that pain is assessed, prevented, and
treated. Countries around the world must proclaim that
children have the right to the best pain management
possible and put into place mechanisms to see that this
right is realized.
24 Aug 2005
For more background see this document
created for the IASP Global Year Against Pain in
Finley GA, Franck LS, Grunau RE, von Baeyer CL. Why
children's pain matters. International Association
for the Study of Pain. Pain: Clinical Updates,
2005;XIII(4):1-6. Online (PDF).