The objective of this study was to compare children and adolescents with overlapping chronic pains (OCP) to those with single chronic pains (SCP) among youth presenting in specialized clinical settings, in an effort to identify potential risk factors for developing overlapping pains.
A total of 1235 youth ages 8 to 18 seen in a tertiary care multidisciplinary pain clinic or a multidisciplinary headache clinic completed self-report measures of pain, disability, psychological functioning and clinical history and characteristics at the time of initial clinic visit. Information was captured in a chronic pain data repository and accessed for the current study.
Subsequent pain symptoms developed on average 11.9 months (SD=24.5 mo) after onset of the first pain symptom. Compared with patients with SCP, patients with OCP report more medical comorbidity, more developmental issues, and poorer current sleep and school functioning. They also scored significantly higher than patients with SCP on self-reported functional disability, pain catastrophizing, fear of pain, depression, anxiety, and psychological stress and lower quality of life (all Ps<0.001). In multivariate analysis, variables most strongly associated with presenting with OCP were age (odds ratio [OR]: 1.1, P<0.001), having a clinically significant high functional disability (OR: 1.4, P=0.3), and low quality of life (OR: 2.5, P<0.001).
Given their tendency toward more psychological and medical comorbidities, patients with OCP may require more intense and diverse treatment approaches. Some early life experiences may be a risk factor for development of OCP. Longitudinal studies are needed to fully evaluate the heightened risk for OCP associated with some of these factors.