Contrary to popular belief, back pain is a health issue for children as much as their grandparents. Early in 2017, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, USA did a thorough review of scientific literature learning that lower back pain in children is a common problem, not a rare one, that becomes more widespread as they mature.

Percentage of children with back pain (in the USA)
The figures unveiled by the Hospital’s review showed that at 7 years old, 1 percent of kids will have lower back pain. This rises to 6 percent of children aged 10 years and 18 percent when they reach 14-16 years of age with girls suffering more than boys. Despite the significant number of teenagers with lower back pain, only 7 percent sought medical treatment suggesting that it is not being taken seriously either by the children, caregivers or medical professionals.

Musculoskeletal overuse and trauma
The literature review was unable to pinpoint a predominant risk factor for lower back pain in adolescents – for example, bending over much homework, text-neck or heavy schoolbags, though these can and do cause stress on the musculoskeletal system. The study suggested that mostly back strain in children was caused from overuse and trauma.

Due to their stage of development, adolescents are at risk of lower back because their bodies are growing in rapid spurts, increasing the need to exercise with care. To avoid trauma, which frequently occurs from sporting activities, incorporating warm up exercises helps loosen the joints and muscles ready for action.

Sports training generally requires repeating actions to increase skill. Repetition and overuse lead to strain injuries which can be easily avoided. Allowing time for adequate rest and switching up activities that use different muscle groups within the training regime reduces risk. The one piece of advice that most parents and schools can work with is limit the hours of weekly training to match the kids age in years, for example, a 12 year old can only train for up to 12 hours per week.

While it is typical for teenagers and children to enrol in sports during the winter season, the body responds better if such high levels of activity are maintained all year round. Lower back injuries are prevented by training all year round.

You might also be interested in: Motivating kids to make exercise fun 

Accessing treatment
Lower back pain can affect a young teen’s life. The pain can encourage self-limiting behaviours such as not participating in social activities or school sports in order to avoid worsening physical symptoms.  

A good doctor will listen and investigate the cause of a child’s back pain for an accurate diagnosis and for preparing an effective treatment plan. Also, a doctor needs to assess that nothing more serious is going on. Another good reason to take a child to visit the doctor is that one injury increases their predisposition for it occurring again so healing right can have a lasting future impact.

The study highlights the need for parents and GPs to acknowledge that lower back pain can occur in children, and not to think of it as an adult or seniors condition. While back pain does not discriminate with age, there is positive news. Children’s lower back pain is generally benign and heals with medical advice and treatment.

Supporting your child’s development needs 
There are a a great range of ergonomic aides for kids that you can incorporate into their daily life, to support correct posture, and aide in easing any existing discomfort. Check out Bad Backs’ range here.