Parent’s pain may affect child’s migraine severity
The degree of disability and pain suffered by adolescents with migraines may have a lot to do with how their parents experience pain, a new study shows.
Dr. Ann Pakalnis and colleagues found that, as the number of chronic pain-related conditions reported by a parent increased, so did the child’s number of days with migraine, hours of disability due to headache, and use of anti-migraine triptan medications.
“Their tolerance level to the pain and their degree of functionality was lower, their disability was higher with the pain,” Pakalnis, of Columbus Children’s Hospital in Ohio, told Reuters Health in an interview. “Possibly they’re missing more school, they’re missing more social activities, irrespective of the frequency of the headaches.”
Pakalnis reported the findings this week at the American Headache Society’s annual meeting in Chicago.
A number of studies have linked parents and children in terms of their pain perceptions and disability in chronic conditions such as sickle cell disease, fibromyalgia, and abdominal pain, Pakalnis and her team note. To investigate whether a child’s experience of migraine pain might show a similar link, the researchers looked at 27 young people who had from 1 to 15 migraines each month. Half of their parents reported at least one chronic pain condition, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or irritable bowel syndrome.
The more such conditions a parent had, the more disabled his or her child was by migraine and the worse the child’s quality of life, the researchers found.
The degree to which a parent felt their condition interfered with their daily life also influenced how well the child was functioning. Teens whose parents had at least one chronic condition reported three times as many hours lost to disability compared to those with parents who had no such conditions. The parents with chronic pain conditions also perceived their children as being more disabled by headaches compared to parents who were free from chronic conditions.
While genetic factors may be involved in the parent-child pain perception link, Pakalnis said, environmental factors are clearly at work. “Pain is certainly subjective, and an individual’s response to pain, I think some of that is learned,” the researcher said.
The findings also suggest, she added, that it may make sense to get parents more involved in helping their children cope with pain and disability from migraines. “We’re wondering if we should be more attentive to obtaining a history of chronic pain problems in parents or guardians. Maybe we should involve them to a greater degree in their child’s treatment plan.”
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