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Pain management program for children

Special to Wesson News

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Chronic pain may not seem like a condition of childhood and adolescence, but studies say up to a third of children suffer from pain lasting three months or longer.


Treating pain in children is the focus of the transdisciplinary pediatric pain clinic opened at the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi. The clinic is the first of its kind in Mississippi and the fifty-sixty in the country, anesthesiologist and pediatric pain specialist Dr. Veronica Carullo reports.


Children’s of Mississippi physicians say the pediatric pain clinic is helping children with chronic pain enjoy fuller lives.


In addition to caring for patients at the Sanderson Tower, Carullo’s team also sees patients who experience pain resulting from underlying medical conditions such as sickle cell disease or cancer at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Mississippi and at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Integrative Health in Ridgeland.


Children’s pain can be the result of an injury or conditions ranging from arthritis to headaches. Some patients experience discomfort from primary pain disorders such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).


CRPS results in pain and sensitivity in a particular spot of the body. For 16-year-old Kaeden of Hattiesburg, that spot is the top of his right foot. With hopes of going to Xavier University after high school graduation next year, Kaeden wants to ease his pain.


The clinic's team includes Carullo, psychologists Dr. Cindy Karlson and Dr. Hannah Ford, physical therapists Tara Husband, Annie Reiher, and Rachel Dear, and RN-care coordinator Shannon Armstrong.


The multidisciplinary approach to children’s pain treatment reflects the different factors relating to pain, Carullo said. “Pain treatment is not only pharmaceutical. Physical therapy can reduce pain and increase function, and cognitive behavioral therapy can treat pain and the stress, anxiety and depression that can come with it.”


Psychological intervention is essential in the treatment of chronic pain, said Ford, associate professor and director of the psychology residency program at UMMC. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) -- a discussion-based therapy that helps patients identify and change negative thinking – is an example.


CBT “involves making changes to the way we think about our pain, learning strategies to turn off this physiological alarm system, and also making behavioral changes to support a healthy lifestyle,” Ford said. “We practice lots of relaxation skills that are aimed at regulating our autonomic nervous system response, turning off that fight-or-flight response. Patients also learn cognitive strategies to change how they think about pain. We also work together to gradually build up activity to improve functioning and promote healthy behaviors. Our goal is not only to reduce pain, but more importantly, to improve functioning.”


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