Objective. Pain is a serious problem for many individuals with cerebral palsy (CP). Pain and injury in early life may cause long-term changes in somatosensory and pain processing. Nevertheless, no information exists regarding the influence of age on pain reports and touch sensitivity among persons with CP or the influence of age on the quality of life in individuals with CP.
Design. The present cross-sectional study investigated pain characteristics, touch sensitivity, and quality of life in 86 individuals with CP and 115 healthy volunteers. Participants were grouped by age in children (6–10 years), adolescents (11–17 years), and young adults (18–30 years). Touch sensitivity at different body locations were tested by using von Frey monofilaments. Data about pain and quality of life were obtained from a semi-structured interview and questionnaires.
Results. Participants with CP reported more pain as well as more reduced touch sensitivity and quality of life than healthy controls. Neither pain reports nor touch sensitivity or quality of life were influenced by age in CP, whereas significant age-related changes were observed in healthy participants. Multiple regression analyses also showed that age was the best predictor of current pain intensity in healthy controls but not in individuals with CP.
Conclusion. These findings emphasize the importance of considering the presence of pain at very early ages in CP. Furthermore, these results provide clinicians and researchers with a new age-related psychosocial and psychophysiological perspective to investigate the mechanisms that could be involved in the presence and maintenance of pain in this population.