What to expect
Keeping pain away in every area of care
Our commitment to no needless pain extends to every area of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. You’ll find us in the emergency department, at your child’s bedside, and in the clinics working to manage chronic pain as well as procedural pain like a blood test, vaccination or IV start.
Preparing for a hospital stay
Before a hospital stay, your child may be worried if it will hurt. Assure your child that we do everything we can to minimize pain as much as possible. We work alongside physicians and nurses within the hospitals. We have a variety of strategies that we can use — and we’ll keep trying them until we find what works for each child. These may include relaxation techniques, repositioning, numbing creams, medications and more.
If your child is staying here and experiences any pain, or there’s a possibility that a test or procedure may cause pain, you can be sure your child’s staff has been trained in using special techniques. As the parent, alert our staff any time you are worried that your child is in pain. We’ll do everything we can to make it better.
Before your hospital stay, pack a bag of anything your child would want to have that can help him or her feel more at ease — this may be a special baby blanket, toys, books or games.
Preparing for a painful procedure
When your child is scheduled to have a painful procedure such as an immunization or IV start, parents are involved, too. Research has shown that the following methods should be offered to all infants and children having a needle poke (such as lab draw, vaccination and IV start):
- Positioning: Whenever possible, children should sit up (possibly on their parents lap). Children should not be held down.
- Numbing the skin: Numbing creams can be placed on the site 30 minutes before the poke or lidocaine injections can be used in more emergent situations.
- Distraction: Age appropriate distraction such as bubbles, books, videogames and music are examples of techniques that you or your child may choose.
- Sucrose (sugar water): This is used with a pacifier or gently placed inside the cheek or breast milk for infants younger than 1 year of age
For infants and toddlers, cuddling your little one can make a big difference. Think of ways you soothe your child at home when he or she is upset and feel free to do it here — that may involve rocking, singing, reading or even rubbing your child’s head.
For school-aged kids and teens, you may become a coach for them during painful procedures. Encourage and help them to use distraction strategies, let them know they’re doing a great job, and tell them how proud you are of how they’re doing.
Teens may opt out of any of these methods and that is OK. You can help them decide what is best for them. It’s also helpful to make the staff aware of what’s worked well in the past for your child when it comes to pain-relief and bring along any toys, games or special items that make your kid feel more at ease.
Preparing for a pain clinic visit
If your child will be seen in the interdisciplinary pain clinic, knowing what to expect helps make the first visit less stressful. Before the visit, talk about it with your child. You can talk about the experts they may meet, show your child a photo of some of the experts they will meet and talk about the importance of working with several experts.Your child can also help fill out the forms about the pain and treatment they have experienced in the past.
To help us complete initial paperwork and concentrate on your child’s care, it’s important to arrive about 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. That way, we can zip through the registration and insurance process (remember to bring your insurance card and co-pay) and concentrate on what’s most important to us — talking with you and taking great care of your child.
When you make an appointment at the pain clinic, there are a few things you can expect during your visit:
- You’ll team up with our experts. Your family will meet with one of our pain management physicians or advanced practice registered nurses who may perform a comprehensive physical exam.
- We’re thorough. A visit may last anywhere from one to four hours depending on how complex the issue may be.
- We’ll get to the root of the problem. A large portion of the appointment may be spent discussing the pain your child experiences. The more details you or your child can provide about the pain the more it will help us arrive at a diagnosis and design a targeted treatment plan. These details may include where it hurts, what the pain feels like, what times of day it occurs, and any additional symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, difficulty walking or moving. The team will also be interested in how the pain has impacted your child’s and family’s life.
- Mapping out the future. Once we’re able to understand and diagnose your child’s pain, we’ll talk with you about our treatment suggestions and work with you to develop a plan to improve the pain. We’ll schedule a follow-up appointment as quickly as we can to start putting that plan into action
The majority of children and teenagers, who are seen with chronic complex pain, enroll into an active rehabilitative pain management program. The goals are usually to normalize function and life and as a result, decrease pain. Unfortunately, it is usually not the other way around. For instance, kids should not wait until the pain goes away before they go back to school or go back to their normal social life.
The pain clinic team helps kids to participate in all four aspects of our treatment program:
- Physical therapy with a therapist trained in chronic pain with daily home exercises.
- Teaching, and then daily practice of active distraction techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, biofeedback and/or clinical hypnosis.
- Regular meetings with a pain therapist, as pain usually increases stress and decreases mood, which then increases pain.
- Normalizing life through sports/exercise, social life, sleep and returning to regular school attendance, if school has been missed due to pain.