New research out of Canada suggests that doctors should ensure that teens who are battling chronic pain and illness should have a support system in place to address their mental health, as it can help manage physical symptoms.
The study was small, but the findings speak to a larger issue that oftentimes gets overlooked when it comes to helping adolescents with chronic pain. For their study, researchers conducted an eight-week study with 28 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 who had been diagnosed with various chronic pain conditions. The group was split in two, with one group participating in the iPeer2Peer program.
Those in the treatment program were partnered up with an adult between the age of 18 and 25 who had also been diagnosed with a chronic condition. The mentors needed to undergo a 20-hour training session prior to being paired up with a mentee. The pairs talked via Skype twice a week for at least 20 minutes a session for the first two weeks, then at least once a week for the remaining six weeks. Researchers noted than sessions routinely ran about twice as long as the minimum 20-minute scheduled session. Mentors shared advice, offered emotional support and addressed any concerns or questions the mentee had.
Mentoring Chronic Pain
At the conclusion of the eight weeks, researchers uncovered:
- Mentees reported significantly higher self-management skills and more satisfaction with their ability to cope with pain after completing the program.
- Mentees in the program said they were satisfied with the program and would recommend the treatment to a friend.
- Mentors responded that they enjoyed the sessions as well.
Researchers believe that showing teenagers that they don’t have to fight their battles alone can be a significant step in helping them cope with their chronic condition.
“Young people with chronic pain can become socially isolated and many have never met another person with chronic pain,” said lead study author Sara Ahola Kohut, a pediatric health psychologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “By having trained mentors, young people who are only a couple years older than the teens, teach coping strategies, we believed the pain coping skills might be easier to learn and practice.”
Kohut concluded that anywhere from 11 to 38 percent of children and adolescents deal with chronic conditions at that stage of their life, so we need to start addressing the issue. This program may be the answer.
“The program is easily accessible, teenagers liked it, and it helped improve the teenagers’ ability to cope with pain.”