Back Pain In Kids And Teens

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For children and teenagers, various factors can be considered as the cause of their back pain, especially since these ages are more active everyday. Back pain for adolescence and children may increase with age which typically affects girls more than boys.  For several rare cases, back pain can have an underlying serious condition that is needing immediate care and solution from the healthcare professionals. If your child is experiencing severe back pain that he has been complaining about for a long time now, this might be a sign that you need to see a doctor for a check-up.  Symptoms like these should never be neglected.

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In this article, we will be talking about back pain in children and in teens. This will provide you with various comprehensive information including the cause of back pain, diagnostic considerations, and treatments that are available to cure your child’s pain which could help you as a parent understand and support kids with the condition. 

Common Risk Factors

Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, participation in sports and any various physical activity, family history of lower back pain, poor posture, psychological stress, and smoking could be some of the most common risk factors for back pain in adolescence. If a child has a family history of back pain, they are more likely to have back pain, too, compared to a child with no family history of the condition at all.

Relatedly, studies have suggested that people who experience back pain in their early childhood are more at risk of having back pain in their adulthood. Furthermore, school-age children who complain of having back pain usually have high levels of psychosocial difficulties such as having problems with their daily actions/activities and behavior, and emotional distress. 

Characteristics

Back pain could only be localized and restricted in one area of the back or could affect the whole back depending on the cause of it. The common causes of back pain generally have the following characteristics:

  1. Initial stage: this could typically appear in low intensity (mild pain) which usually lasts for up to 7 days.
  2. There is usually high recurrence of a specific type of back pain to the same age group.
  3. When the pain comes back, it can usually be felt worse than the first couple recurrence.

When this happens, a child could usually have difficulties in focusing, and catching up with school activities which could lead to school absences and hesitancy in performing extra curricular activities in school.

Types of Back Pain

Depending on the underlying cause of back pain, the following are the possible types of back pain that a child is experiencing:

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  • Nighttime pain–  This kind of pain keeps children awake at night since this usually occurs at night. This pain is typically associated with tumors or infections such as spinal cord tumors, discitis,  osteomyelitis, osteoid osteoma, osteoblastoma, aneurysmal bone cyst, eosinophilic granuloma,  leukemia, and Ewing’s sarcoma so this kind of pain requires immediate medical attention especially if your kid is suffering it for a few days already.
  • Chronic pain– this type of pain could be posture related that comes and goes, but is constant. This could be due to the inflammation of spondyloarthropathies, developmental problems such as Scheuermann’s disease, and psychological issues.
  • Acute pain- this pain could be sharp, shooting, and/or stabbing-like pain that is usually triggered and developed from a trauma, injury, fracture of the vertebrae or herniated disc.  

Backpacks: Cause of Back Pain Among Kids

Some evidence has suggested that heavy backpacks could cause, and is one of the main causes of back pain in children and adolescents because of the following reasons:

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  • Heavy backpacks may strain a child’s neck muscles, causing them some neck, shoulders, and back pain.
  • Improperly carrying and loading of backpacks, and stooping forward while walking with it can distribute weight unevenly, causing the back muscles to strain which results in back pain.
  • Carrying heavy backpacks everyday unevenly on the shoulders—just carrying it one on one shoulder—which is a fashion of carrying a bag, may cause muscles in the area where the bag is to strain because of the uneven weight distribution. This could result in localized pain on the shoulder and on the back.

The American Academy of Pediatrics have suggested in their non-evidence based guidelines that the optimal weight of a child’s backpack should only be at least, and restricted to 10-20 percent of a child’s body weight to prevent body/back pain among children. Relatedly, they have suggested that if a child is complaining of back pain because of their backpacks, the weight should be reduced immediately. However, if the kid really has a lot to bring with her to school, it is recommended to give them a wheeled bag instead. 

General Tips to Avoid Back Pain

Having back pain is not something uncommon, especially when individuals undergo the mentioned risk factors on the daily or they barely do. Of course, despite it happening to a lot of people of all ages, even in kids, it does not mean that back pains should be ignored. Quite frankly, 80% of the people in the US and 7.5% of the world’s population have been reported to experience back pains as reasons to miss work or visit their attending physicians.

That said, it is more than common, but it could also be avoided through the following tips that could be applied to people in different age ranges as long as caution is also observed.

  1. Make sure to get enough exercise.
    It is normal to require rest whenever you feel a part of your back in pain, as it is general knowledge that it is mostly caused by strenuous activities or overworked muscles. While it is advised to rest for a day or two, it is also highly recommended to continue training your muscles to be comfortable with exercise; especially the type that focuses on balance and flexibility. This way, you can improve your general strength as well as train your body to maintain proper posture.
  2. Take note of your physical weight.
    As the weight is mentioned to be one of the risk factors of developing back pain, it is highly important for you to take note of the changes in your body mass. Establish a diet that will work for you and you can follow in a healthy manner as it can also help improve your body weight. There are multiple guides to dieting in trusted websites online, but it is safer and much preferable to consult a physician or a licensed dietician.
  3. Configure the most preferable sleeping position.
    This might be a minor issue to many, but resting for hours during the night definitely affects how your body would respond to the stagnancy. One can develop back pains and it could continue to worsen if the sleeping position does not work well with the body. Placing a support pillow under the knees and the lower back and avoiding sleeping on your stomach generally works on easing the tension off of your back muscles.
  4. Mind your posture.
    Being a woman, this is already a natural comment as women are usually expected to always keep the poise and proper posture. However, this applies to every gender as good posture will help in improving one’s back pains. A trusted tip to check whether you are doing and maintaining proper posture is to stand by the wall with your heels touching it.
    Make sure that the back of your head, shoulders, buttocks, and calves are pressed against the wall, yet you can still slip your hand on the small of your back. Step away from the wall and maintain such posture; if it changes, correct yourself right away.
  5. Be careful in your way of lifting.
    This could be considered a minimal thing but it greatly affects your back, especially when the item you are lifting or carrying are more on the heavier side of the scale. Do not bend over to lift and pull from your upper body. Instead, push the item upwards using the weight from the lower area of your body.
    You should also be mindful of the items you are carrying on a day-to-day basis as the way your body accommodates this extra weight could make the slightest changes that can easily grow into something unpleasant. With children’s items for school, it is actually recommended for them to just use trolley bags if there are too much for them to bring so the load would be evenly distributed.

How to Know That the Back Pain is Serious

Back pain in kids, especially on children under 10 years of age, especially those kids that are 4 years younger should be considered a red flag since these may be a symptom of a serious condition like spinal tumors, infectious diseases, vertebral fractures, and cauda equina syndrome. Connectedly, spinal tumors and fractures could have more symptoms like stiffness in the spine during the morning and while walking, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, tenderness on the spine, night pain, and fever. On the other hand, back pain associated with cauda equina may cause bladder and/or bowel incontinence and progressive neurological sciatica-like symptoms.  

Any complaint by a child or a teenager of back pain should be taken seriously especially if you suspect them having some serious medical problems. Booking an appointment with your physicians (pediatricians) for a medical consultation and examination is advisable and it should be done during the early stage of back pain especially if it is persistent, progressive, and severe. However, if the pain is only due to physical activities, self-care and over the counter medication could help. 

Read more from BuzzinPH: Smoking and Back Pain

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