Back Pain in Children: 4 Common Causes and When to Seek Help
May 26th, 2023 by Catherine Marqueses
When you think of back pain, you will generally associate it with adults, but it can affect children too. In most cases, back pain in children is temporary and resolved independently, but it is important to know the common causes and when to seek medical attention. In the article, you will be informed of the pediatric back pain red flags to keep and eye out for.
Here are four common causes of back pain in children and when to worry.
1. Poor Posture
One of the leading causes of lower back pain in children is poor posture. They typically spend most of their days hunched over at desks or looking at screens. Saying in this hunched position for long hours of the day, most of the week, can strain muscles and ligaments in the back, leading to discomfort. They are sitting hunched over most of the day and have to carry large, heavy backpacks too. This can cause additional discomfort and back pain. The backpack’s weight can strain the spine muscles if not properly distributed.
You can prevent back pain by encouraging your child to work on good posture to prevent muscle strains and ensure their backpack is fitted correctly. It is best to get them a bag with padded shoulder straps and a waist belt, which should be worn with both straps on. If you think this could be the reason for their back pain it is essential to make adjustments and fix their posture.
2. Sports Injury
Sports can affect their spine health if your little one loves to get outside and stay active. Children involved in sports are at risk of back pain due to injuries and overuse. Repetitive movements, incorrect form and intense activities can lead to back issues like strains, sprains and stress fractures. High-impact sports like gymnastics and football have a higher rate of back injuries.
Pay attention to any complaints of back pain during or after sports activities. If the pain persists, worsens or starts to swell with limited mobility, it is time to see a health care professional. Sometimes sports can put stress on a child as well. Both acute and chronic back pain can be associated with psychological stress along with physical. When you go in to see a professional about these issues, remember that the treatment can help prevent long-term complications and ensure your child can continue growing up healthy.
Scoliosis is a condition characterized by and abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. While most cases are mild and are not painful, some children feel back pain, especially if the curvature progresses. Scoliosis can be identified through routine school screenings or observing in close detail if they have uneven shoulder heights or asymmetrical waistlines.
If a child complains about persistent back pain or you see signs of scoliosis, you will want to get an evaluation. Treatment options for scoliosis range from observation and physical therapy to braces or even surgery if it is extremely severe. The earlier you detect it, the sooner the condition can be managed.
4. Muscle Strains and Sprains
Children often are active in various physical activities that can result in strains and sprains of all muscles. Lifting heavy objects, sudden movements and falls can cause injuries and affect the back. Back muscles are susceptible to strains and sprains, especially in the lower region.
Minor sprains and strains can resolve themselves with rest, ice, compression and elevation. However, if the pain worsens and starts to swell with difficulty moving, you should seek medical attention. They will be able to assess the severity of the injury and recommend the necessary treatment such as physical therapy.
Determining When to See a Provider
After seeing how many reasons your child could have back pain it can sound overwhelming when deciding what to do about it. Back pain indicates more serious problems in kids than it does in adults. This statement is even more true when the child’s back pain does not improve in a few days or worsens.
Here are some red flags to keep in mind when deciding to see a provider.
- Is younger than 4 and has back pain
- The pain wakes them up at night
- The pain is continuous and last for weeks
- The pain shoots down their legs
If you are wondering whether it is a cause of going to the emergency room, you will want to look for other signs that point to something more severe and urgent. Here are signs that point to going to the ER urgently.
- Malaise, fever and chills
- Losing weight without trying
- Trouble walking, weakness and numbness
- Problems controlling when going to the bathroom
The Bottom Line
If your child has unexplained and worsening back pain along with other concerning symptoms, it is time to get them medical help. Make sure you pay close attention to how they describe the pain and what they do daily that could cause the pain to occur or worsen.
By Beth Rush