Pain distribution in school aged children

Pain distribution in school aged children

A summary of the study

Musculoskeletal pain experienced by adults is reasonably well researched, but pain in children is not. Last year the findings of a three-year study performed in Denmark was published looking at the pain distribution patterns of children between 8 and 16 years old. This study finished with 1,169 participants – which is a significant sample size when looking at children of that age across all industrialised countries.

For the purposes of the report, pain was defined as at least one week of pain during a school year. While we know that “pain can start early in life and increases throughout adolescence,” it is the specifics offered up by this study that make it noteworthy.

Other concerns that accompany childhood and adolescent pain include negative impacts on “sports participation and physical activity in childhood” as well as “psychological distress, poor relations with peers, absence from school, puberty and decreased quality of life.” To this end, it is important for both parents and clinicians to know when and how to bring in interventions.

What the study found

  • The percentage of children who did not experience pain during the school year was just 28.5%. 71.5% of children did experience at least one episode of pain lasting one week.
  • Of this percentage, 60% experienced lower extremity pain, 28.7% experienced spinal pain and the upper extremities came in last at 22.6%.
  • 2% of participants reported pain in more than one region, and of these, the most common was spinal and lower extremity pain (13.2%).
  • Twice as many girls reported pain in all three sites compared to boys (10% vs. 5%).

The study did have limitations, one being that parents reported the pain states. When the children themselves were asked, they often had other pain to report. Parents (admittedly less so than doctors) underestimate a child’s pain and overestimate their child’s wellbeing and quality of life, so this study’s findings are likely conservative when we factor that in.

Chiro for Kids Special

To coincide with the April school holidays this year we are running 2 special offers for families of The Chiropractic Domain.

  1. Standard visits for all patients under 18 years old get an extra $5.00 off their standard or reactivation visits.

  2. New patients under 18 years old get 50% off their first AND second visit.


Fuglkaer S, Vach W, Hartvigsen J, Boe Dissing K, Junge T and Hestbaek L (2020), “Musculoskeletal pain distribution in 1,000 Danish Schoolchildren aged 8-16 years,” Chiropractic and Manual Therapies, 45(2020),

McIvor, C. (2020). Pain distribution in school aged children - Australian Spinal Research Foundation. Retrieved 30 March 2021, from

Brudvik, C., Moutte, S.-D., Baste, V., & Morken, T.. (2017). A comparison of pain assessment by physicians, parents and children in an outpatient setting. Emergency Medicine Journal, 34(3), 138–144.

Lagattuta, K. H., Sayfan, L., & Bamford, C.. (2012). Do you know how I feel? Parents underestimate worry and overestimate optimism compared to child self-report. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 113(2), 211–232.

Loopstra, C., Strodl, E., & Herd, D.. (2015). A qualitative analysis of how parents assess acute pain in young children. Health Psychology Open, 2(1), 205510291456629.