Chronic pain in children in the UK: a survey of pain clinicians and general practitioners

Paediatr Anaesth. 2008 Oct;18(10):957-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9592.2008.02710.x. Epub 2008 Jul 30.


Background: There is a lack of information about the prevalence, manifestations, and management of chronic pain in children in the UK. We surveyed consultants with an interest in chronic pain management and general practitioners (GPs) in the UK in order to understand their perspective on chronic pain in children.

Methods: We conducted a postal survey of clinicians with an interest in chronic pain management and GPs in the UK. The survey contained questions relating to the following aspects of managing children with chronic pain: (i) clinicians' training and experience; (ii) available resources; (iii) perceived prevalence, presentation, and referral patterns; (iv) interventions; and (v) outcomes.

Results: 472 pain clinicians and 131 GPs were contacted. The response rates were 55% and 61% respectively. Of the respondents, 77% of pain clinicians and 95% of GPs acknowledged a lack of adequate training for managing children with chronic pain. 57% of the pain clinicians and 63% of the GPs reported that the prevalence of chronic pain in children was <5%. In the comments section, 22% of those respondents who frequently manage children with chronic pain reported an increase in the incidence of this problem over the last 5 years. The common chronic pain syndromes in children were reported to be: musculoskeletal and limb pain, recurrent abdominal and pelvic pain, and headache. 15% of the respondents advised that children with chronic pain would be best managed in specialist pediatric centers and 75% opined that majority of children with chronic pain have a fair to good prognosis.

Conclusions: More information is required about prevalence, manifestations and long-term effects of chronic pain in children in the UK. There is a need for increasing training and resources amongst GPs and pain clinicians for managing chronic pain in the pediatric age group.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia*
  • Anesthesiology / education
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Family Practice* / education
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Pain Management
  • Pain* / epidemiology
  • Pain* / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology