Back Pain in Teenagers – Causes and Treatment

Commonly, back problems in children and teens are mostly caused trauma or injury due to falls, play, sports, poor posture, spinal disorders such as spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, or some extraordinary stress or strain for example due to carrying a heavy backpack.

Stiffness of the back muscles happens most commonly due to straining of the ligaments or pulling of back muscles. This can be especially common in young athletes.

Possible Causes of Back Pain in Teens

Some of the most common causes of back pain in children and adolescents include:

Spondylosis

Teenagers who are more competitive in sporting events can suffer from back injuries which may result in the onset of spondylosis. It is a defect of intervertebral joints in the vertebral column and potentially a stress fracture may appear in some young people.

Spondylolisthesis

It is a condition in which one of the vertebrae slips out of its original place and pushed upon the other one. It can cause instability and severe back pain in teens.

Injury

Teens that tend to overburden their vertebral columns via gymnastics or other high-intensity sports, transmit force to their vertebral bones and thus, chances of overuse injuries and muscle strain are enhanced. Disc injury, such as developing a disc herniation, may also happen to cause severe back pain.

Arthritis

Although this condition is not that common in teens, it may happen specifically in the individuals having any type of nutritional deficiency.

Warning Signs of Back Pain in Teens

Some of the warning signs for back pain in the young people are presented below. If any of the signs is present, it requires immediate investigations:

  • Pain while sleeping and upon waking up
  • Persistent back pain, lasting for weeks or months
  • Signs and symptoms of generalized or systemic body illness like weight loss, malaise, fever, and chills
  • Numbness or weakness in the limbs
  • Difficulty in moving upper or lower extremities
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control
  • Noticing or feeling any alteration in your/your child’s posture or gait.

Risk Factors for Back Pain

There are some risk factors associated with developing back problems as a teenager, including:

  • Having a genetic predisposition. For example, intervertebral disc diseases have familial preponderance.
  • A diet that is high in fat and sugars, leading to weight gain, where the extra weight places additional pressure on the spine, and can lead to pain
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle, which allows for the muscles to weaken, and can also contribute to poor posture habits.

Diagnosis of Back Pain

The doctor will provide a diagnosis after taking a history and performing a physical examination. If necessary, your doctor may also recommend certain investigations to finalize the diagnosis. These investigations include:

  • X-Ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Bone scan
  • Electromyography or EMG

Treatment

Back pain usually disappears with rest, and as time goes on However, if you want to diminish the pain quickly or speed up recovery, you may want to try some of the following home-based treatments:

  • Over-the-counter painkillers can be used for temporary pain relief. It is recommended to consult with your child’s doctor beforehand, so that they can advise a type of painkiller that is suitable for someone their age.
  • Hot and cold compresses may also be effective, as a warm compress tends to increase blood circulation to the affected area, while a cold compress may help reduce inflammation. They can be used in tandem with one another.
  • Physical therapy may be beneficial for some adolescents, and especially those involved in sports.
  • Spinal decompression therapy is another solution that may help relieve pain in young people, provided that they are old enough to use it.

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