Ongoing research at the IWK Health Centre is investigating how children and their parents deal with pain.
The research looks at how children cope with pain and how parents react — all with the aim of helping kids through painful moments, such as getting injections or other treatments.
The work has produced some counter-intuitive conclusions.
"When parents reassure their children when they have pain, which is one of the most common things that parents do, that actually makes kids feel worse and increases their pain," said Dr. Christine Chambers.
She said parents are better off distracting children, using humour, or giving suggestions on how to cope with the pain.
According to the Canadian Pain Society, one in five Canadian children suffer weekly or more frequent chronic pain such as headaches, backaches or stomach aches.
However, pain in children was hardly acknowledged formally just a few decades ago.
"It really is hard to believe that as late as the 1970s and 80s that there was a widespread belief, it was taught in medical school, that children didn't feel pain," said Chambers.