In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

How Does Chronic Pain Impact Adolescents in School?

Students with chronic pain sitting in class at their school

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

Millions of people around the U.S. suffer from chronic pain.  Adults have more control over their pain management regarding treatment options, when they feel they need them, and especially when it comes to being in the workforce.  But what about young people?

What happens to adolescents with chronic pain at school?

Researchers published their findings from a study that explored how adolescents with chronic pain manage it at school [1].  They conducted a search of past studies that had been done on the topic.  Researchers found 14 published studies that fit the criteria they were looking for.  They used data from the study to analyze how adolescents with chronic pain are doing at school and how well schools are prepared to help the students.  Most studies showed that chronic pain has a significant negative influence on adolescents.

Adolescent Chronic Pain Negatively Affects:

  • school attendance
  • how well students perform academically
  • academic competence
  • engagement in physical activities
  • social functioning

Are all adolescents negatively impacted?

While most of the studies showed that chronic pain had a negative impact on adolescents at school, there was some conflicting information.  There were some studies that reported adolescents with chronic pain were not impacted socially, and they actually did better than their peers.

One area of concern for the researchers, as well as for those who may have an adolescent who suffers from chronic pain, is how well schools are prepared to help with management.

Researchers found that schools do not have the guidelines in place to help adolescents with their chronic pain management.  They advise schools create written policies to help adolescents with chronic pain.  Those guidelines should help teachers with the pain management protocols during school.

This study highlights important information for parents and schools.  There’s a good chance that most adolescents with chronic pain may have difficulty in school, including academically and socially.

It’s a good idea for parents to speak with their teacher or counselor to ensure that there is a guideline in place to help their child with pain management while they are in school.  Being proactive in ensuring measures are in place will go a long way toward helping adolescents through chronic pain management while at school.

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  1. Journal of Advanced Nursing. A systematic review of the impact of chronic pain on adolescents’ school functioning and school personnel responses to managing pain in the schools. April 2020.
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