Pediatric Behavioral Health in the Pain Management Clinic

Chronic pain can be very stressful for children, teens, and their families.

Behavioral health providers integrated into the Pain Management Clinic at UPMC Children’s Hospital provide collaborative care with you and your child’s medical team to provide support and intervention to improve health outcomes.

Treating a child's chronic pain effectively requires a team approach.

Behavioral health providers work with the pain management team to help improve your child's daily functioning and quality of life.

Conditions We Treat at the UPMC Children's Pain Clinic

Chronic pain in childhood or young adulthood has many causes.

We treat children and adolescents with:

  • Back pain. This type of pain can be due to muscle strain or damage to the spine. Other diseases may cause chronic back pain, including spondylolysis and scoliosis.
  • Brachial plexus injury. This injury is to the nerves in the neck and shoulders that control the arm muscles. It can cause a loss of feeling or movement and chronic pain.
  • Complex regional pain syndrome. This chronic intense pain in one area can affect children and young adults. It happens more often in teen girls.
  • Fibromyalgia. A long-lasting syndrome that causes pain throughout the body, including in the muscles, joints, and other soft tissues.
  • Headaches. Pain in the head, face, and neck that won't go away, happening more than 15 days a month. Includes migraines and tension-type headaches.
  • Juvenile arthritis. Swelling of the joints causes pain and damage. This damage can make it hard to do routine things like walking or dressing.
  • Pain in the body's bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This pain can have many causes.
  • Post-traumatic persistent pain. After a traumatic event, young people may have lingering chronic pain.
  • Reflex neurovascular dystrophy or reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Pain and swelling may happen at the site of a healed injury. Other symptoms include sweating, movement issues, and shiny or discolored skin.
  • Sickle cell disease. This genetic disease causes chronic pain flare-ups due to broken red blood cells.

Behavioral Health Care for Children With Chronic Pain

The role of behavioral health in the pain management clinic consists of brief, focused treatments that include:

  • Teaching children about the mind-body connection of pain.
  • Helping children and loved ones know and manage their pain triggers.
  • Training children in relaxation techniques.
  • Helping children pace their activity levels so they're not doing too much.
  • Techniques to help children return to school and other activities.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for children with pain

We offer two options for CBT to help children cope with pain — one-on-one and virtual group therapy.

One-on-one therapy for chronic pain:

  • Is often a brief course of 6 to 12 highly structured sessions tailored to each child's needs.
  • Helps your child gain coping skills to manage their pain and get them moving again.
  • May involve loved ones to help their child reach their treatment plan goals.

We offer group therapy through the Virtual Comfort Ability Program (VCAPS).

VCAPS is a partnership between UPMC Children's and Boston Children's Hospital.

This group helps young people ages 10 to 17 manage chronic or recurring pain and improve their day-to-day life.

Through VCAPS, your child will:

  • Learn how pain functions in the body and techniques to help manage it.
  • Design their own plan to manage pain and pain-related stress.
  • Connect with other kids who have pain.

Parents and caregivers will learn:

  • Methods that promote your child's comfort.
  • How to support a child's improved function at home and school.
  • Where to find more pain management support.

To learn more about VCAPS at UPMC Children's, email