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Four Common Causes of Back Pain in Kids

We often attribute back pain as a sign we’re ‘getting old’, but for some children, age has nothing to do with their back condition. There are several reasons why your child or teen may be experiencing back pain. And if they do, they’re not alone. According to the Medical Journal of Australia, the prevalence of back pain is approximately 1% to 6% in children, but sharply rises in adolescence up to 18% to 50% [1].

This article discusses the four most common causes of back pain in children. If you’re child or teen is experiencing back pain, contact your physiotherapist for a comprehensive assessment and treatment plan.

Common Conditions That Cause Back Pain in Children

1. Stress Fractures 

A stress fracture is an overuse injury where a bone has undergone repeated trauma. Fatigue or overload on the muscles can cause them to no longer absorb the stress and shock of a repeated impact. They therefore transfer the stress to the nearby bone, causing a small crack or fracture. These can occur in the spine.

Spondylolysis is the most common type of stress fracture that occurs to a bone in the back of the spinal column. Repetitive hypertension is often the cause, which is a common movement for gymnasts, divers, and dancers.

2. Muscular Conditions

Muscular back pain is one of the most common causes of back pain for children, adolescents, and adults. Several injuries and conditions can cause this type of pain, including muscle or ligament strains, overuse injuries, and poor posture or conditioning.

X-Rays and MRI’s may not reveal muscular back pain. Instead, a physiotherapy assessment can identify problem areas and possible causes of the pain. Physio treatment for muscular back pain may include rehabilitation exercises, massage, and lifestyle modifications.

3. Disc Problems

While disc problems are not common in children, they can occur. When they do, they cause serious symptoms that should be urgently addressed. Disc herniation occurs when the cushioning between two vertebrae ruptures. As a person ages, the discs in the spine lose their elasticity and pliability, making them more prone to rupture.  

The disc material pushes out of its typical position and can put pressure on the nerves and spinal cord. Symptoms of a disc herniation include numbness and tingling in the legs, weakness of the lower extremities, pain, and difficulty bending the spine. If children experience significant damage during a disc herniation, then surgery may be the recommended treatment option.

4. Alignment Issues  

Your posture and alignment play a significant role in overall spine health. There are two spinal deformity conditions that can affect children:

Scoliosis: a deformity where the spine has an S-shaped curve when seen from the back.  

Scheuermann’s Kyphosis: a deformity where there is a sharp bend in the spine which can be seen from the side.  

These conditions are very different but require a similar treatment approach. If the deformity is mild, then observation or a brace are typically the best course of action. However, if the deformity is significant, then surgery may be the best option.

How to identify back pain in children and teenagers  

Here are some of the most common warning signs that your child or teen may need to see a physio due to back pain: 

  • Constant pain or worsening symptoms.
  • Symptoms persist for months.
  • Pain that worsens at night or causes your child to wake up during the night.
  • Symptoms in very young children.
  • Nerve-related pain such as weakness, tingling, or numbness in the legs.

If your child is experiencing symptoms, the best option is to have them assessed by a physio. Instead of putting the pain down to ‘growing pains’ or a ‘normal experience’, visit a physiotherapist for a thorough investigation. This can help the pain to decrease, and improve your child’s quality of life.  

Book your physiotherapy appointment  

If your child or teenager is experiencing back pain, they may benefit from physiotherapy treatment. Book your appointment at Northern Districts Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic with one of our friendly and experienced practitioners today.

CALL 02 9874 8410    BOOK ONLINE

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Northern Districts Physiotherapy

Northern Districts Physiotherapy & Sports Clinic was established in 1995 and consists of an energetic team of highly qualified and experienced professionals who take the time to understand ...


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