Comparing Diary and Retrospective Reports of Pain and Activity Restriction in Children and Adolescents With Chronic Pain Conditions

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ObjectiveThe current study investigated the daily relationship between pain, activity restriction, and depression in children and adolescents with chronic pain, and compared participants' responses on diary and retrospective assessment measures.MethodData collection included the administration of diary and retrospective measures of pain, activity restriction, and depression to 93 children with recurrent headache, juvenile chronic arthritis, and sickle cell disease. The study used hierarchical linear modeling to examine the relationship between daily pain and activity restriction, and analyses compared participants' responses on diary and retrospective assessment measures.ResultsUsing diary measures, daily pain intensity was related to children's levels of activity restriction. Diary completion was predicted by age and diary-type, with younger children and children using electronic diaries demonstrating higher compliance. Pain intensity was significantly higher on retrospective compared with diary measures, demonstrating inflation in retrospective reports of pain. No significant differences between measures of activity restriction emerged.DiscussionThese preliminary results suggest that although retrospective reports of activity restriction may be an acceptable alternative to daily diary assessment for children with chronic pain, retrospective measures of pain intensity may show inflated pain levels. To provide support for the findings, longitudinal research comparing responses to diary versus retrospective measures is recommended.

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