Age is commonly cited as one of the contributing factors to back pain, which typically starts to become a noticeable problem for people between the ages of 30 and 50. However, children aren’t immune to the possibility of experiencing some type of spine-related pain. In fact, anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 19 are affected by back pain. Here are six possible sources of back pain in children that typically require attention from a doctor or Beverly Hills spine surgeon.
Less than 10 percent of children with lower back pain have a herniated disc as the source of their symptoms. Even so, it’s possible for abnormalities with vertebrae or sudden injuries from a hard impact or fall to affect spinal discs in younger patients. Symptoms may include:
• Difficulty bending or straightening the back
• Pain that becomes worse with certain movements
• Numbness and tingling sensations and/or pain in legs
Children, adolescents, and teens, especially those who are active in sports, may develop spondylolysis, a type of stress fracture that typically affects vertebrae at the base of the spinal column. More common in boys, spinal stress fractures are usually caused by constant overstretching of the spine, which may happen when lifting weights or playing sports involving a lot of motion and flexibility, like football or gymnastics. Lower back pain is the most common symptom.
The most common cause of back pain in children, juvenile scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. The condition is usually diagnosed between the ages of 4 and 10 during normal physical exams. If the curvature is mild, treatment may involve a combination of bracing and physical therapy. Surgery may be necessary for curvatures beyond 45 degrees.
Because symptoms are sometimes vague, spinal infections in children can be difficult to diagnose. Discitis, the most common pediatric spinal infection, is usually treated with antibiotics and supportive therapy. Although the only way to determine what type of infection is involved is with a blood test. Signs of infections that may be affecting a child’s spine include:
• Non-localized back pain
• A general feeling of not being well
It’s rare for tumors to be a cause of back pain in children. If an abnormal growth is present, children may have back pain that becomes more noticeable at night, often to the point where it’s difficult to sleep. Symptoms may also include unexplained weight loss, muscle weakness, changes in bowel habits, back and/or leg or neck pain, difficulty walking, or a general loss of sensation.
Also referred to as juvenile osteochondrosis of the spine, Scheuermann’s kyphosis usually affects the upper spine, although the condition may also develop in the lower back in children. The disease can cause vertebrae to develop at different rates during a child’s growth spurt, which sometimes results in abnormalities with bone formation. Symptoms, which normally develop between the ages of 10 and 15, may include:
• Tight hamstrings
• A feeling of being off-balance
• Reduced flexibility
• Pain that worsens with activities involving twisting, bending forward, or arching backward
As is the case with adults, back pain in children is sometimes nothing more than a temporary inconvenience because of spine-supporting muscles that were overstressed. When the experienced discomfort lingers for several months, affects sleep, or causes symptoms such as general weakness, dizziness, unexplained weight loss, or numbness extending into the legs, it’s time to seek medical attention.
If your child has chronic back pain and you’re interested in learning about minimally invasive back surgery and spinal fusion alternatives, Beverly Hills is home to The Spine Institute, where Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons are prepared to provide the assistance you and your child need. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.