December 16, 2015 10:02 pm
Updated: December 16, 2015 10:13 pm

Calgary program helps teens re-train their brains to stop severe chronic pain

WATCH ABOVE: It could be a life-changer for an estimated 14 thousand southern Alberta kids living with chronic pain, and as Mia Sosiak reports, it’s already happening at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.


CALGARY – It’s not as well known, but chronic pain affects kids too. Now a program for teenagers at Alberta Children’s Hospital is changing lives with some amazing science.

A team of doctors, nurses, psychologists and physiotherapists is helping teens re-train their brains to stop feeling severe chronic pain.

Patients at the Vi Riddell Children’s Pain and Rehabilitation Centre get six weeks of intensive physiotherapy and counseling.

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There is also some academic time at the hospital’s school and lots of chronic pain education for the whole family.

As the young patients gain strength, confidence and better coping tools, the need for pain medication diminishes.

There are days when I still get a seven on the one to 10 scale, but there are days when I have no pain at all now,” patient Katya Dittrich said.

“What I hear most often is, ‘If I think about it, the pain is there but it’s really faded into the background.’ The pain used to be front and centre and it used be something they would stare at every day, and now they really have to think about it. And if you give it enough time the pain actually goes away,” said Dr. Nivez Rasic, the medical director at the centre.

It works using something called neuro-placticity.

Chronic pain signals grow over time in a pathway in the brain. But if the patient starts doing or thinking something different, a new pathway forms.

The more often the new pathway is used, the weaker the old one becomes.

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