What we Know About Pain in Children with Cerebral Palsy

Gianna is a 4-year old girl with bilateral cerebral palsy, GMFMCS level IV.  She has mixed tone with components of both spasticity and dystonia.  Over the last month she has been acting differently, with loud vocalizations, irritability, agitation, increased muscle tone, sleeplessness, and episodes of teeth grinding.  Everyone in her family has been feeling heightened stress.  Is Gianna in pain?  She can’t clearly relay what she is feeling and where it hurts because she is non-verbal.  There is no obvious swelling or redness on any area of her body.  As her PT, how can you tell if she is experiencing pain?

Gianna’s situation is common. The SPARCLE study in Europe identified that children with CP experience more pain than their peers and that pain can lead to a lower quality of life, decreased participation, and family stress.  Pain has been found to decrease quality of life more than the physical disability itself.  As a health practitioner, it can be difficult to determine the presence of pain unless there is a visible sign, localized pain, or the child can verbalize what they are feeling. Continue reading “What we Know About Pain in Children with Cerebral Palsy”