Pain site persistence and changes from childhood to adolescence: a prospective cohort study

Pediatr Res. 2024 May;95(6):1625-1633. doi: 10.1038/s41390-024-03021-w. Epub 2024 Jan 15.


Background: Pain is a complex experience that interferes with the well-being of youth who experience it. We aimed to assess whether recurrent pain sites in childhood can predict later recurrent pain sites prospectively.

Methods: Pain was assessed using the Luebeck Pain Screening Questionnaire at ages 7, 10, and 13 from the Generation XXI cohort. We used multinomial regression to assess the association of recurrent pain sites at ages 7 and 10 with those at age 13.

Results: We included 3833 participants. Boys with recurrent abdominal/pelvic pain at age 7 were more likely to report headaches (OR 2.81; 95%CI 1.48-5.34), abdominal/pelvic (OR 2.92; 95%CI 1.46-5.84), and musculoskeletal pain (OR 1.55; 95%CI 1.02-2.34) at age 13. Girls with recurrent abdominal/pelvic pain at age 7 were more likely to report both musculoskeletal (OR 1.62; 95%CI 1.10-2.40) and abdominal/pelvic pain (OR 1.74; 95%CI 1.15-2.65). At age 10, all pain sites were associated with pain in the same site at age 13.

Conclusion: Recurrent abdominal/pelvic pain at age 7 may be related to the development of various pains in adolescence. Pain at a given site at age 10 can be associated with pain at that same site at age 13.

Impact: Recurrent abdominal or pelvic pain during childhood was distinctively associated with an increased risk of recurrent pain in other sites during adolescence. Recurrent pain during childhood was associated with pain in the same sites at age 13, and this persistence seemed to emerge between the ages of 7 and 10 for both boys and girls. Studying early pain sites may add to the understanding of the etiology of chronic pain.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain* / etiology
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Headache
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Pain
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pelvic Pain / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires