How can we support children to understand and manage painful joints and muscles?

How can we support children to understand and manage painful joints and muscles?

Painful joints and muscles are common in children. Despite this, there’s still lots we don’t know about why pain happens and how it’s different in children compared to adults. It’s important that when children see their doctor, they receive the right support and information to help them cope with their pain.

Research we’re funding in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is exploring what happens when children visit their doctors with painful joints and muscles.

Kate Dunn, Professor of Epidemiology at Keele University is leading a collaboration of researchers from the UK and Sweden to understand what children and their parents think about their pain and the care they experience.

Using this information, they’ll develop new self-management resources to help support children and their parents.

Researchers will analyse anonymous medical records and speak to children to better understand:

The team will work with children, parents and healthcare professionals to develop support materials, such as leaflets and videos.

These will be focused on improving children’s confidence in dealing with the musculoskeletal pain. They will be tested with children visiting their doctor’s, to find out how they can help children to manage their pain. The researchers will collect feedback from parents and healthcare professionals and evaluate if these materials are helpful

This research will develop resources tailored to support children with muscle or joint pain.

The resources aim to improve knowledge, skills and understanding by addressing specific beliefs about pain. For example, reducing fear of movement and encouraging positive attitudes towards physical activity and exercise.

The research will also improve children’s confidence by focusing on increasing health literacy, considering different reading abilities and those without internet access.

It’s hoped this package will ultimately lead to improvements in quality of life such as less time off school/work and fewer healthcare visits.

The research will also bring benefits to healthcare professionals by providing improved knowledge and resources about musculoskeletal pain, allowing them to better support children and their families.

Professor Kate Dunn said “There is a massive research gap among this important group of children and young people. We are very excited to learn much more about their patterns and experiences of musculoskeletal pain and its management, and work with the children and young people to develop resources that are helpful and relevant for them.”

The research has been co-designed with children and parents, to ensure the proposals are relevant to address their needs and improve care. The researchers will continue to work with this group to find the best and quickest ways to translate findings into practice or policy that benefits children.

If you or a family member under the age of 25 has arthritis, we run a Young People and Families service that provides information and support and puts on a range of events across the country.

Our service helps young people and children offers advice on how to live well with arthritis, medication and potential treatments, as well as creating a safe space to ask questions, receive information and develop support networks.

Find out more about our Young People and Families service. 

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