Category Archives: Parenting

Have You Checked the Children? Pediatric Chronic Pain More Prevalent Than Previously Thought

Young boy with a headacheBad news, parents: chronic pain in kids turns out to be more prevalent than was previously assumed Worse yet? The numbers of kids reporting chronic pain are increasing.

A recent study was published in the December 2011 journal Pain by Dr. Carl L. von Baeyer of the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Psychology that looked at several surveys of reported chronic pain in children. (See “Interpreting the high prevalance of pediatric chronic pain revealed in community surveys” abstract.)

Examining the results of over 40 child pain studies from 1991 to the present, the researchers found that girls experience more chronic pain conditions than boys, and as affected children grow older, the pain tends to increase.

The most common kind of pediatric chronic pain? Headaches (23 percent of kids aged 7 to 18), but abdominal, back and muscle pain were also common.

“(R)esults of this review indicate that persistent and recurrent chronic pain is overwhelmingly prevalent in children and adolescents and should be recognized as a major health concern in this population.”

When Did Your Chronic Pain Really Begin?

Officially, I was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease and worsening scoliosis in November 1999, and with fibromyalgia in February 2000. Yet, I remember quite vividly several episodes of pain in my adolescence that felt an awful lot like the fibromyalgia flare-ups I periodically experience now. The deep-seated ache, especially on the tops of my shoulders and in my lower back and hips, is pretty unmistakeable, even 30-odd years later.

At the time, of course, my mother and I were told it was “growing pains.” At 5’10” I’d obviously done quite a bit of growing, but growing up shouldn’t hurt.

I know that now of course … but at the time? It seemed reasonable to a teenager, especially one who spent almost every day in dance class or theater rehearsals.

I didn’t really put it together at the time. It took my late mom’s revelation, four years past diagnosis, that she too had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia to trigger my memories. Thinking about a potential genetic link had my mind wandering over the history of my life with my mom, and her mother as well, looking for clues.

And that’s when the memories came: moments of such deep and bone-crushing fatigue that I could barely get to the bed, moments of intense flu-like pain that wouldn’t let me get out of bed …

Did I have fibromyalgia as a child? I’ll never know for sure. It seems more than possible in hindsight, but short of a time machine, there’s not much available to me now that can confirm it.

So when did your chronic pain really begin? And for the moms and dads out there, are you worried about your kids “inheriting” your condition? Share your experiences below!

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Craig Dingle

Halloween, Candy, and the Chronically Pained: Coping Tips for Parents

Oh, it’s my favorite time of year.

No, I’m really not kidding. I truly do love Halloween. I love the spooky vibe, the crisp chill in the air, the feeling that anything can happen, if you just look closely enough …

And, unfortunately, I’m also being sarcastic. Yeah, I just love Halloween. Walking around for four hours on end, hauling bags of candy which turn my child into a raging tornado of “GIMME!” and trash my house and … oh, yeah, did I mention the WALKING?! Halloween HURTS, people.

Well, fortunately, this year it seems my kid has decided to forego the usual trek around the neighborhood in favor of more centrally-located festivities. (Phew.) But for those of you with younger kids out there, Halloween truly presents some challenges.

Here’s how I handled it in years gone by:

Abdicate Early and Often

I totally let the kiddo’s dad take over the walking duties. In turn, I stayed home, passed out candy, and baked cookies. Yes, more sugar to give the Gimme Monster. It got me out of walking. Your point?

Rest Up/Dose Up

Ah, the old stand by trick of the chronically pained. Take a good long nap before any activities requiring lots of effort, and make sure you take your meds half an hour before starting up.

Have a Plan

I negotiated ahead of time with the kiddo to specify which houses we’d be going to, and in what order, and what would happen when Mommy cried “Uncle.” It didn’t eliminate the disappointment but it went a long way towards reducing the fallout.

What do you do to deal with Halloween? Do any of you eschew the holiday altogether — just turn the lights off and watch old episodes of Dexter? Do you give out stuff other than candy — you know, like, maybe that nutritious stuff instead? (I can’t fathom, but I hear some people . . .)  Give us your best coping tips in the comments!

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Chronic Pain and the Other People in Your Life

I’m working feverishly on several projects, including three for this site alone, and those WILL be coming (by God) but in the interim, I wanted to share a few thoughts that were sparked by a conversation I had today with a writer who was interviewing me about chronic pain and two topics near and dear to my heart (and … well, other body parts): parenting and sex.

Warning: This is going to be frank. If you’re easily offended by such stuff, please exercise your mouse on over to the “back” button or the little “X” up there in the corner of your browser and clickity-click. ‘Kay? Moving on.

The interview was shortish – about half an hour or so – but we briefly touched on both topics: how chronic pain affects (A) our parenting relationships with our kids and (B) our sex lives. The chronically pained (like that? I just made it up because this whole language problem with writing about chronic pain just sucks) think and write and talk a lot about how pain affects us — but  it also affects others too, and the interviewer’s questions got me thinking: both of these seemingly disparate topics are really about one thing: how chronic pain screws with our relationships with other people, and ourselves.

Chronic Pain Affects How We Interact With Others

The first thing that occurred to me was a relatively simplistic notion: chronic pain has a significant impact on how we relate to other people in our lives. It has to, because it changes our world. Anything that has that much power over our routines, our relationships to our bodies, our self-images, must also necessarily impact our relationships with others. As much as we might wish otherwise and say to ourselves, “It won’t — I won’t let it” — well, it’s wishful thinking.

So the first key, I think, is to simply acknowledge that it’s there, that it will change things, and that where our power lies is in how we react to that change. We’re not powerless, after all. As I spoke with the interviewer we began talking about the difference between pain and suffering — pain isn’t optional for us, but suffering to a large extent is optional. It arises when we resist the “what-is” in the moment, if I can get a little New Age on you for a second.

That resistance is what hurts us emotionally and what’s behind the perception of suffering. Yet many of us find that when we can simply be present with the pain — as in present, as in “not the past and not the future, not even two seconds from now” — we reduce our perception of suffering. And, of course, suffering is all about the perception. If you think you are, or you think you’re not, you’re right.

It’s Hard to Feel Sexy When You Hurt Like a Mother#*@&^%

For those of us who have had or are in romantic relationships while coping with chronic pain, our conditions have a whole other realm of impact and that’s on our sex lives.

“Ha! What sex life?” I hear some of you asking yourselves. Exactly my point.

Whether we want to admit it or not, sex is important in a relationship (well, usually). Unless you and your partner both are completely happy with how your pain has limited or changed your sex life together, then, my friend, you’ve got a problem or will soon have a problem.

Here, too, pain changes how we relate. Except that what we’re relating to differently now isn’t just another person — it’s also our own bodies as well as the relationship itself.

In my last relationship (my marriage, which ended a few years back), there were many problems — and only a few of them had anything to do with my pain. But even so, I admit that my condition(s) negatively impacted our relationship, and part of that was due to the fact that I just didn’t want to have sex.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did. But I also … didn’t. You’ve heard the saying “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”? In my case, it was more like “the spirit and some parts of the flesh are on board with this but the rest of the flesh is saying ‘Oh HELL to the NO.””

It’s important to be precise.

I’ll leave the tips and advice for another post but I’ll simply say this now: sex is a crucible for the entire relationship. It’s your canary in the coal mine. If it’s off kilter, you’ve got problems elsewhere, too. (And probably vice versa.) What’s a symptom of which? Does it matter, really? You’ve got to talk about it – honestly, openly, and without prejudging what kind of response you’re going to get.

This is easier said than done, especially if your spouse has been less than supportive, I know. I have no easy answers for anyone. All I know is that the alternative — swallowing your issues and either simply refusing to play, or worse going along with whatever just to please the other party — will kill you. It will kill you literally or figuratively — in body or in psyche — but either way, it’s not living. Not really.

Parenting and Pain

One of those awesome projects I’m working on for this site is a series of posts about how to talk to your kids about chronic pain, so I don’t want to get too far into this topic right now. But I’m learning a lot from reading what the experts who are participating in this series have to say about the subject, and it’s also triggering some thinking of my own about my experiences as a single mom.

As I said to the interviewer this morning, I think kids need two things: information and reassurance. It might seem like you’re protecting your child by not being up front about your own illness with him or her, but please believe me on this point, if you believe nothing else: the little ones KNOW. They just sense things, much more than we ever suspect.

Talking to them in an age-appropriate way is the first and crucial step, I think, to being a more effective parent when you’re coping with chronic pain. And it’s not a conversation you can expect to have once and be done with it, by the way. Be prepared to go over this stuff a few times, at least. But again – more on that in the appropriate post.

For now, I just want to acknowledge for myself, publicly, that chronic pain has changed my approach to parenting. That I can’t be the parent I dreamed of being in exactly that way I envisioned anymore. But I can be even better, in some ways, by being honest with my daughter, by showing her my strength, and by trusting her enough to let her have her honest emotional and psychological response to the truth of my condition.

And maybe when we get right down to it, that’s the problem underlying all of these squirrelly issues: do we really trust the other person enough to let them respond honestly to our pain? Or are we so afraid and gunshy (for good reason, thanks to the responses we often get from those who are supposed to be providing for our medical needs) of confessing the truth about our pain that we can’t even be real with our own loved ones?