Connecting physical health with overall health

As mentioned in a previous post, members of the Pain-Ed team have been involved in several studies examining chronic spinal pain among adolescents. One study demonstrated the very close relationship between mental health and spinal pain among adolescents, with poorer mental health observed among those with spinal pain. Consistent with this, another study demonstrated that those children and adolescents who attended a rheumatology clinic differed from similar aged children in several ways. Specifically, those experiencing pain reported more anxiety and depression, more somatic pain complaints (e.g. dizziness, tiredness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, complaints about eyes, skin or stomach problems), were less physically active, sat in a more slumped spinal posture, had reduced back muscle endurance, had more hypermobile joints and had poorer gross motor skills. In other words, those experiencing pain reported a range of other health complaints as well as several physical findings. Finally, another study demonstrated that while most adolescents who develop low back pain are generally healthy and not hugely affected by the pain, the impact of low back pain is much greater among the small proportion who also report pain in other parts of their body and/or have issues with anxiety, depression, behaviour or attention. While these studies do not answer the chicken/egg dilemma on pain and these other factors, they demonstrate that attempts to help people in pain need to evaluate the persons’ overall health across several domains – physical, lifestyle, psychological, emotional and social.

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