You are not alone: Message to young people in chronic pain

Dr Nicki Ferencz, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Service Lead for the Paediatric Chronic Pain Service, with Tracy and Kate Smith.

Sunday 26 May marked an anniversary for Kate Smith – but it was not a day for celebration.

The day marked three years since the Adelaide 17-year-old started to experience the chronic pain that affects virtually every aspect of her life, from sleep, to socialising to school.

Kate, whose chronic pain presents in the form of a constant headache, said that while the past three years had been extremely difficult, she wanted to let other people know that they weren’t alone and that help was available.

To help drive this message home, Kate and her mother Tracy have appeared in a series of videos produced by the Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s Chronic Pain Service.

The videos aim to help students and educators better understand how chronic pain presents and help to provide important strategies for managing so that children and young people can continue their education.

South Australian children experiencing chronic pain miss, on average, 5.4 days of schooling per fortnight.

“Living with chronic pain is extremely difficult and challenging,” Kate said.

“In some respects, though, I consider myself lucky. I have terrific family support and a wonderful GP who has helped us navigate the situation and referred me on to a variety of other excellent specialists, and ultimately the WCH Paediatric Chronic Pain Clinic.

“Without all these people caring for and supporting me, I wouldn't be managing as well as I currently am.

“My message to other people living with chronic pain is that you are not alone. There are lots of young people unfortunately living with chronic pain.

“I would definitely recommend connecting with other people your own age who are also suffering with some form of chronic pain. They will truly understand what you are going through.”

Tracy said that as a teacher, and Kate’s mum, she was acutely aware how busy educators often were dealing with a host of mebbbdical, emotional, and behavioural issues.

“Teachers can only support students if they know what they are dealing with,” Tracy said.

“I really hope the videos raise the awareness amongst teachers and support workers, as to the many students who are living with chronic pain.  It is often quite an invisible condition, but kids like Kate need to be seen, believed, and supported.”

She said both she and Kate were delighted to be invited to work with the Paediatric Chronic Pain Team on the videos.

“They are a wonderful group of kind, understanding and supportive health care professionals who provide an amazing service,” Tracy said.

“We are grateful for everything they have done for Kate and were really pleased to be able to assist them with this project.”

According to Pain Australia, as many as one in four children and young people experience chronic pain. This can be in the form of headaches, abdominal pain, complex regional pain syndrome and musculoskeletal pain.

More than three quarters of children with chronic pain have experienced it for more than 12 months and 92 per cent of patients referred to the service report an impaired quality of life.

The Paediatric Chronic Pain Service consists of a multidisciplinary team including a service lead, clinical coordinators, physicians, physiotherapists, and psychologists.

The service operates three days per week at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital/Ngangkiku Ngartuku Kukuwardli. Referrals to the service can be made by GPs and specialists.

The new Chronic Pain Chats videos, which feature discussions from students, parents and teacher’s perspectives, are available on the WCH website.

All NewsInfrastructureInnovationIndustry & BusinessRegionsEnvironmentLifestyle & EventsCommunityEducationHealth