Chronic Pain in the Future Generation

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    Pain can be passed from one generation to the next. This fact is not merely a result of genetics; this fact is also a result of habits, education, behavior, and health. More than just chromosomes are passed from one generation to the next. Parents and teachers can be an important part of the equation that stops the inheritance of pain from one generation to the next.

     

    Recently, I had the privilege of teaching a brief health education class to a group of 84 teenaged girls. One girl came up to me afterwards and said that my health class was the first one she had actually learned something from. Instead of bursting with pride, I was saddened by that statement. Really, a brief 20-minute health class from me was the best that she had seen. We can do better than that. We must do better than that if we want the next generation to be healthy and pain free.

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    The healthiest girls in this group obviously had the greatest amount of parental involvement. Some parents really do take the time to teach their child how to make healthy choices that impact their nutrition and fitness. In turn, some children were very well informed about the ill effects of sugary drinks and snacks. Some preferred to use the stairs as opposed to the elevator. Healthy habits start in childhood. The knowledge gained now not only impacts the present state of our children’s health, but also their future health for the rest of their lives. Passing on healthy habits and choices is the best way to prevent chronic pain in this generation and the next.

     

    We adults also need to serve as good role models, not just educators. Education does not penetrate deeply if it is not coming from someone that practices what he preaches. Modeling healthy habits and appropriate pain responses are influential ways to prevent chronic pain in the next generation. A child that witnesses pill taking for every ache and pain is more likely to reach for a pill bottle when feeling uncomfortable. A child that experiences a parent’s catastrophic ideas about the pain experience will be more likely to become a catastrophic thinker. By keeping the medication use hidden from view and not making mountains out of mole hills, adults can help a child develop good cognitive strategies for coping with pain.1, 2, 3 

     

    What happens now does impact the future pain experiences of the next generation. We’ve discussed how health habits, education, and modeling can change the occurrence rate and reactions to pain. Another way to stop pain from occurring in the future is the prevention of injuries. Injuries that occur during childhood can cause chronic pain in the future. Some children are athletically driven and tend to push the underdeveloped body too hard in order to achieve a dream. Many Olympic athletes now live with the pain from post-traumatic arthritis. Some children have extreme risk-taking behaviors that can lead to significant trauma to the body. If these values are reflected in the adults within a child’s circle of influence, the adults are just reinforcing behaviors that make injuries more likely. Instead, adults should teach children the importance of living within physical limitations and respecting certain boundaries. Living life without limitations often causes chronic pain that’s inherited from one generation to the next.

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    Yes, pain is an inheritable experience. Because chronic pain has reached epidemic numbers, our duty is to educate our way out of this epidemic. With more health classes for children, more fitness role models for children, more witnessing of appropriate pain reactions, and more boundaries to live within, the next generation does not necessarily have to experience chronic pain.

     

    1. Pain. 2013 Jun 18. pii: S0304-3959(13)00328-X
    2. J Pediatr Health Care. 2013 Feb 16. pii: S0891-5245(12)00302-1
    3. Int J Behav Med. 2012 Mar;19(1):115-9
Published On: July 27, 2013