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Research Suggests Better Understanding of Chronic Pain in Cerebral Palsy Patients is Needed

Chronic pain

A recent study published in the journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology notes that chronic pain is common among patients with cerebral palsy (CP) and has a significantly negative impact on their quality of life. The study also noted that chronic pain in CP patients is not as well understood as it should be, and that further research is needed to better understand both the cause of the pain and to develop effective treatments.

Cerebral Palsy and Chronic Pain

The study noted that patients with CP often suffer from chronic pain throughout their lives. This can affect up to 75% of adults and children with CP. However, despite these figures, chronic pain remains one of the most understudied physical factors of CP.

Chronic pain in CP patients often manifests in symptoms that appear in the lower back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Problematically, evaluating pain in CP patients is challenging, especially where the patient in question may have a mental impairment (or for someone with CP who is non-verbal and unable to communicate).

Assessing Chronic Pain

The majority of studies link chronic pain to certain cell receptors called nociceptors that respond to tissue damage. However, there can be alternative causes of chronic pain including constipation, gingival disease, nutritional factors, and headaches.

Certain biomarkers can help assess the type and level of pain suffered by a patient. For instance, research has suggested that levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) are elevated in some CP patients and can be used as a potential indicator of chronic pain.

In addition to biomarkers, another tool that has been helpful in pain research has been functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The study’s researchers note that such tools should be considered “for future investigation”.

Limited Understanding of Chronic Pain in CP Patients

The study noted:

The preponderance of limited research on chronic pain among children and adults with CP has centred on its prevalence, impact on quality of life, and interference with participation in family, work, and community life…Clinicians are neglecting or not identifying chronic pain in CP in the great majority of clinical encounters for individuals with CP, despite its high prevalence and importance in negatively impacting quality of life and participation.

Specialized Treatment for CP Patients

Researchers noted that some non-pharmacological strategies, including massage and counselling, are considered helpful for chronic pain. However, these strategies are, currently, only being used for a small percentage of individuals.

According to researchers, it is critical to understand that pain conditions in CP patients have different mechanisms and will not necessarily respond to the same treatments.

A better knowledge of the causes of chronic pain amongst CP patients can result in specialized pain treatment with a higher probability of reducing pain for those patients.

There are a number of pain treatments currently under development, including inhibitors of ion channels, calcitonin gene-related peptides, nerve growth factors, and cannabinoid receptors,  which may prove promising for pain relief.

The study’s researchers concluded that:

[A] systematic and thorough approach to pain assessment and treatment, such as described in the Chronic Pain Assessment Toolbox for Children with Disabilities should be routine practice.

Compensation for Cerebral Palsy

If you are the parent of a child with CP, you may be able to obtain compensation (i.e. damages) if you can establish that the cerebral palsy was caused by a birth injury and/or was the result of a physician’s or other healthcare provider’s negligence.

This can include failure of a medical professional to:

At Sommers Roth & Elmaleh, the objective of our Toronto medical malpractice lawyers is to ensure that our clients have financial security and will not have to rely on government subsidies, sponsorship or external funding in order to afford the cost of the goods, services, therapies, attendant care, equipment, and programs they will need- and deserve– over their lifetime. We offer compassionate and highly knowledgeable guidance on every aspect of a medical malpractice claim, including claims of families of children with cerebral palsy, and have helped clients from all across Canada, including Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Newfoundland. Call us at 1-844-777-7372 or contact us online for a free consultation.


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