Spinecare Topics

  • By: ISA Content Team
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Back Pain in Children

Back pain is a common complaint of adults. Most adults experience back pain at some time during their life. Most individuals over fifty years of age have degenerative changes in their low back. These degenerative changes predispose adults to develop back symptoms. Adults are exposed to different causes for back pain than children. For example, adults are more likely to develop a disc herniation, spinal stenosis, facet joint arthritis and degenerative slippage of a vertebra (spondylolisthesis). Adults also heal slower and less completely than children and adolescents.  Psychological and emotional issues which can have a big impact on back pain are less common in children than adults.

The incidence of back pain occurs less frequently in children and adolescents than adults. In fact, persistent back pain is very uncommon during the pre-teenage years. However, because of the greater weight of childrens backpacks in middle school and high school, chronic injury patterns are becoming more common. If a young child suffers from persistent back pain, he or she should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional such as a spine specialist immediately. The younger the child, the less likely they are to experience back pain.  In the absence of known trauma or injury, a child with a backache should be evaluated for potential organic pathology. This is especially true if the child is 4 years old or younger. In children and adolescents back pain may be an early indicator of an underlying disease process.  Younger children are less likely to experience an overuse injury than an adolescent. When children and adolescents are exposed to strain induced back injuries, they tend to be uncomplicated and heal quickly, often within 2-4 days.

Lingering back or neck pain should prompt an appropriate healthcare workup.  If your child has developed back pain along with other symptoms such as a fever, bowel or bladder dysfunction, or sensory/motor problems your child should be seen by a qualified pediatric spine physician.

The exact incidence of back pain in children and adolescents is not known. Part of this is because most cases are not reported because they resolve quickly. The incidence of back pain gradually increases with advancing age.   Unlike adults, children are rarely if disabled by their back pain. In many cases a cause for persistent back pain in children can be identified whereas the exact cause in adults is often a little more elusive. Tight hamstring muscles and weak abdominal muscles can contribute to back pain. Children and young adults often improve quickly after seeing a chiropractic physician for evaluation and treatment. Physical therapy or an exercise program, with hamstring stretching and abdominal strengthening, can also be beneficial.


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