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Pain in Children with Cerebral Palsy: Implications for Pediatric Physical Therapy

Swiggum, Mary PT, PCS; Hamilton, Merry Lynne PT, PhD; Gleeson, Peggy PT, PhD; Roddey, Toni PT, PhD

doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e3181cd18a7
Review Article

Purpose: This literature review explores pain assessment tools and psychosocial pain management methods that are pertinent to physical therapy (PT) for children with cerebral palsy (CP).

Summary of Key Points: Children with CP experience considerable pain that affects quality of life and cooperation during healthcare procedures. Physical therapist–led research on interventions to address pain in this population is limited, despite evidence for the prevalence of pain during PT interventions, and the preponderance of research supporting the use of psychosocial pain management during other healthcare-related pain-inducing procedures.

Statement of Conclusions and Recommendations for Physical Therapy Practice: Research completed primarily by non–physical therapist healthcare professionals delineate assessment tools and psychosocial pain management techniques that hold promise for evaluating and reducing pain that occurs during PT procedures for children with CP.

This review of literature on pain in children with cerebral palsy offers recommendations for pain assessment and management using a psychosocial model.

School of Physical Therapy, Texas Woman's University, Houston, Texas

Address Correspondence to: Mary Swiggum, PT, PCS, Texas Woman's University, School of Physical Therapy, 6700 Fannin Street, Houston, TX 77030. E-mail:

This work was completed in partial fulfillment of a Doctor in Philosophy Degree in Physical Therapy for the first author.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.