Pain reactivity in children as an indicator of somatization and health care utilization

Research has substantially increased understanding of pain in children, revealing for example that patterns of response to pain and other illness symptoms develop during childhood and continue into adult years. A number of studies have also shown that some children tend to react more than others to bodily symptoms and pain. Dr. Elizabete Rocha is investigating whether or not children who react more intensely to pain are more likely to visit their doctors and have repeated health problems. Her research involves collecting data on the pain response of kindergarten-aged children during immunization. This includes examining the children’s behavioural and physical responses to the needle, and giving parents a questionnaire aimed at getting their insight into how intensely their children react to pain. She will then follow the children over a number of years to document their use of the health system. Through this long term follow-up, Dr. Rocha hopes to develop methods of helping to identify children who may be at risk for low pain tolerance and of helping to prevent or better manage their pain.