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Playing Away the Pain

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Children and pain are two words that should never be in the same sentence, but all too often they are. And as complicated as pain management can be in adults, it’s far more challenging in kids, who don’t have the vocabulary to really explain how they feel.

Now, experts at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., are taking up this challenge, unveiling a new Pain Medicine Care Complex this week. Part of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children’s National, the new complex will utilize a Distract, Measure, Treat approach that includes video game therapy with Kinect technology (clearly these folks know kids).

The specially-designed games will be used to help researchers eliminate pain and improve health by analyzing patients’ range of motion while they paint, play, and exercise, providing a far clearer understanding than the old “how bad does it feel on a scale of 1 to 10?” question that many adults can’t adequately answer.

“Until now, it has been impossible to quantitatively measure and monitor chronic pain in children,” notes Sarah Rebstock, M.D., Ph.D., Clinical Director of the Pain Medicine Program, adding that the new video gaming therapy will dramatically improve the lives of patients now while also driving research to transform care in the long-term.

Plus: 5 Ways to Ease Newborns' Pain

According to Children’s National data, one in four parents of patients treated at the hospital has to quit a job or scale back work hours to care for a child in pain. Long-term pain in children can be caused by a variety of conditions including fibromyalgia, HIV, Sickle cell disease, Rheumatoid disease, and osteoarthritis.

The new complex includes a Multi-Sensory Room in which the video gaming therapy takes place; a high-tech interactive bed that serves as a biofeedback environment; and state of the art teleconference and telemedicine technology that will allow the Children’s National team to diagnose and treat patients around the world.

Read more and take a photo tour of another groundbreaking children's hospital.

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