More and more children and adolescents are suffering from back pain. Lack of physical activity or, conversely, intense training in one or more sports may be to blame. Even with the latest tests like MRI, doctors can’t always find the cause of the pain.
Nearly one in three teens has back pain nowadays, and the incidence of back pain in children and teens is increasing at an alarming rate, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This large study found that the annual incidence of back pain in adolescents ranges from 11.8% to 33%. This incidence increases with age, and more and more young people are suffering from back pain that is not organic in origin (organic causes include tumors or infections).
In this new article, the two authors list the main causes of back pain in pediatrics and suggest diagnostic and treatment strategies. In nearly two-thirds of adolescent patients, physical examination and clinical imaging do not provide a clear cause for their back pain. According to lead author Suken Shah, an orthopedic surgeon at Alfred I. DuPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, USA, “It could have a muscular origin, due to poor posture, overtraining in one or more sports in the same season, or the opposite: little activity and not enough exercise.”
Generally, pain is controlled with rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. If the child’s medical history, physical exam, or simple tests reveal a problem, the back pain could be treated quickly and they can probably resume their activities or sports quickly.
A sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, and heavy backpacks all play a role
To explain this increase in the incidence of back pain in children and adolescents, the authors propose several hypotheses: sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and the weight of the backpacks they carry to school. In fact, children with back, knee, hip, and ankle pain have a higher BMI (body mass index) than children without pain. However, pain from heavy backpacks does not warrant a visit to the orthopedist.
To prevent or limit pain, it is advisable to correct the posture, take care of the muscles, exercise regularly, avoid carrying heavy backpacks and always use both straps to distribute the load well (do not use just one strap to carry a backpack).
The most common causes of back pain in children and adolescents are:
- Spondylolysis: it is affecting about 4.4% of children compared to 6 to 11.5% of adults. This moderate to severe pain is relieved by rest and can be treated without surgery: Brace, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Spondylolisthesis (forward displacement of a vertebral body).
- Kyphosis (hunching), in older adolescents. If very severe, fusion or even surgery may be required.
- Injuries caused by falls and other types of accidents.
- A hernia, which is less common in pediatrics than in adults.
- An infection that is treated with antibiotics.
- A neoplasm being treated with chemotherapy.
NB. It is very important to know that if you experience weakness or numbness, pain that spreads down your leg, pain that wakes you from sleep, or pain that gets worse as the days go by, you should see a doctor quickly.