Despite the fact that back pain has long-been associated with disc degeneration that occurs with age, recent research suggests that more children are seeking treatment for back issues. Such discomfort in children can be felt anywhere in the back as sudden, sharp pain, a burning sensation, or general aches. According to one estimate, nearly half of all children may experience some degree of back pain before their 18th birthday.
Causes of childhood back pain can range from too little physical activity and a general lack of exercise to muscle strain from excessive training for a single sport for children who are routinely active in after school activities. Back pain in children can be especially problematic when accompanied by:
• Weakness or numbness
• Noticeable weight loss
• Radiating pain or trouble walking
Diagnosing back pain in children, which often starts with a physical exam and a complete medical history, can be difficult since image testing may not show any clear cause of the discomfort. Balance, coordination and reflexes may also be tested to determine if there are other issues that may be contributing to their back pain. Identifiable causes of back pain in children include:
• A forward shift of the lower spine above the tailbone (spondylolisthesis)
• Disc herniation, often from injury rather than natural wear
• Spinal bone problems (kyphosis)
Non-surgical treatments for back pain in children can include medications to treat a disc inflection (discitis), which is more common among younger patients than inflammation. Bracing may be recommended to allow stress fractures of the lower spine (spondylolysis) to heal. Carrying heavy backpacks can also contribute to back pain in children, a problem that can be remedied by wearing backpacks that evenly distribute weight. Strength training and regular exercise may also ease back pain.
Since back pain in children tends to have a more serious underlying cause than similar discomfort experienced by adults, early diagnosis and treatment is important. Any type of back pain in children that lasts for more than a few days or becomes progressively worse should be evaluated by a doctor.
For more information on non-surgical and surgical back treatments, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration and our team of qualified Los Angeles spine surgeons. Call (310) 828-7757 and request and in-person consultation today.