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Pediatric pain guide for caregivers: Understanding pain

Learn about pediatric pain and how to manage it

Getting started

Welcome to our pain care guide for parents, caregivers, and families. This guide will help you to learn about pain, and approaches to support comfort. 

Your child's comfort is our priority. Children, youth, and families are our partners in pain care. You are core members of the care team. We welcome your input, collaboration, and questions.

If you are a parent or other caregiver, you may want to explore the children's or teen resources with your child.

Please tell us what you think of this pain guide, and of our pain resources. Your feedback will go to our librarian for review.

What is pain?

Pain happens when the nervous system communicates an unpleasant feeling to your brain.

This message signals an actual or potential injury to the body. Pain is more than a feeling. It also includes how we perceive and interpret discomfort.

There are different causes of pain, and there are different pain experiences.

Nociceptive pain is caused by pain messengers (called nociceptors) in the body. Nociceptors communicate an unpleasant feeling when they sense actual or potential injury to tissues like skin and internal organs.

Inflammatory pain is related to the immune system response to tissue damage.

Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to, or disease in, the nervous system.

Pain can be experienced as:

Acute: Pain that lasts for a short time, and goes away when tissues heal. It is caused by injury, illness, surgery, medical procedures, or other changes in a person's health status. Acute pain is one way that the body responds to tissue damage. It goes away when tissues heal.

Chronic pain begins with tissue damage, but continues or returns after tissues heal. Chronic pain can negatively impact mental and emotional wellbeing, social connections, and daily activities like school, work, and recreation.

Complex pain is caused by changes to the nervous system. As a result, the person experiences pain that may not correspond to tissue damage. Like chronic pain, complex pain can negatively impact mental and emotional wellbeing, social connections, and daily activities.

Pain myth busters: Understanding pain

PainCare 360: Pain care at BC Children's Hospital

Our mission: To provide effective care for all aspects of pain for children, youth, and their families in British Columbia.

Our vision: Healthier, happier children, youth and families through better pain care. 

Learn more about pain services at BC Children's on our Pain management and comfort webpage.

3 Ps of pain care

This guide includes information on 3 important components for managing pain:

  • Psychological approach: imagery, distraction
  • Physical approach: comfort positions, heat and cold
  • Pharmacological approach: medication

3 Ps pain guide

These approaches work together to optimize comfort.

Clinical documents for pain

Your child's comfort is our priority. You are welcome to view our clinical documents, which explain our approach to pain care at BC Children's. You can learn about our commitment to comfort in our Pain and Comfort Policy.

You can also learn about:

For more information about supporting your child’s pain and services available at BC Children’s go to our Pain management and comfort webpage.

About Us

PHSA LogoBC Children's & BC Women's are programs of British Columbia's Provincial Health Services Authority. The Family Support and Resource Centre is a library that empowers patients, families, supporters, and community members with health information. People in BC and the Yukon can borrow from our collection for free.