More and more children are complaining of back pain. Here’s why, and what parents can do to help.
Because back pain is often thought of as a symptom of aging, parents are often surprised and concerned when their young children frequently complain that their backs hurt. However, back pain at a young age is becoming the norm. In fact, a recent survey of 3,700 American children showed that as many as one in three kids experience backaches at least once a year.
In other words, if your child is complaining of back pain, you’re not alone. Backpacks’ increasing weights, higher rates of obesity, and higher-intensity, year-round competitive sports have made childhood back pain a common occurrence. As such, it’s a good idea to understand what to do when your child is experiencing backaches, as well as when back pain may point to a more serious condition.
Who Is at Risk of Back Pain?
According to the survey, back pain is highly correlated with age, body mass index, and participation in sports. Kids who are older and/or weigh more are far more likely than their peers to experience back pain — the percentage of survey respondents experiencing back pain increased by about four percent for every year of age.
Girls were also more likely to be at risk. While 29 percent of boys responded that they’d experienced back pain in the last year, 38 percent of girls did. Further, kids who played competitive sports were at greater risk, with varsity and JV athletes reporting back pain at higher rates than kids who played intramural or recreational sports.
For many of these children, resolving back pain requires only rest and minor habit adjustments. For example, the survey found that students who carried their backpacks with only one strap tended to be at greater risk of backaches, meaning encouraging your child to use both straps could help ease their discomfort.
However, certain symptoms signal that it would be a good idea to call your child’s pediatrician. If your child experiences constant pain, or if the pain interrupts their sleep, it’s a good idea to consult with a medical professional. Similarly, if your child is very young or if they’re experiencing leg pain or numbness along with their backaches, a doctor’s attention may be necessary.
What Can Parents Expect from a Back Pain Examination?
If you do decide to make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician, the doctor will likely begin by asking about your child’s health history. It’s important for them to know whether the pain began with a specific injury or activity, whether your child participates in sports, whether your child has any associated symptoms, and how long the back pain has been a problem.
The next step is a physical examination, during which the pediatrician will examine your child’s posture, walking gait, and spinal curvature. It’s possible that X-rays, a CT scan, an MRI, or lab testing may be necessary. This will enable your child’s doctor to confirm or rule out underlying conditions such as scoliosis, kyphosis, and spondylosis.
Once the cause of the back pain has been identified, your pediatrician will recommend a course of treatment that will help your child heal for good, whether it’s physical therapy, increased rest, or a new backpack. If your child is experiencing back pain but doesn’t yet have a trusted pediatrician, consider making an appointment with Kids’ Health.
Our doctors are dedicated to helping your child feel their best physically, emotionally, and academically — and chronic back pain can get in the way of all three. Contact us for an appointment today, and help your child start living a pain-free life.