When most people think of back pain, they tend to think of either older adults or individuals who work in jobs requiring heavy lifting or repetitive movements. However, teens are just as vulnerable to spine-related aches and pains under the right circumstances. The main difference is that back pain in teens and younger adults is often caused, in part, by risky behaviors and poor lifestyle choices, a claim backed up by results from a recent study.
Researchers compared groups of teens in the 14 to 15-year-old range to look for notable differences among subjects with and without spine-related discomfort. It was discovered that the teens evaluated who reported issues with back pain were:
• Drinkers and smokers — Teens with back pain were significantly more likely to have smoked or consumed alcohol within the past 30 days than those with little or no spinal discomfort
• Likely to have underlying emotional health issues — Researchers found that the drinking and smoking teens with back pain studied were also more likely to have emotional health issues such as depression and anxiety than teens without back-related problems.
Researchers also noted that unhealthy habits developed early in life could continue into adulthood, contributing to further issues with back pain. Early exposure to certain toxins may also increase instances of the kind of substance abuse problems or emotional health issues that lead to back pain later in life. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation cites research suggesting smoking increases anxiety, and prolonged stress and anxiety sometimes causes spine-supporting muscles to become tense, which could place added stress on the spine itself. Ultimately, if not addressed, spinal stress and strain could lead to the need for spinal surgery, such as spinal fusion or back fusion alternatives. Los Angeles parents can add this possibility to the long list of reasons for not smoking they should give their teens.
This research doesn’t absolutely prove a link between back pain and risky behaviors or habits in teens. For instance, it’s unclear if teens with back pain are more likely to drink and smoke or if teens who make poor lifestyle choices and engage in risky behaviors are destined to develop spine-related issues. The study emphasizes the need for both teens and their parents to be proactive about identifying and reducing back pain risks. Such efforts may involve:
• Parents setting an example by eating healthy and making healthy foods and snacks readily available
• Teens making an effort to avoid the temptations of alcohol and tobacco products
• Parents and teens getting regular exercise together as a family
• Teens participating in healthy activities that are both physically and mentally stimulating
• Parents intervening early if a teen mentions persistent back pain
• Teens taking the initiative to discuss emotional health issues with their parents, doctor, or school counselor before turning to various substances for solace
Most instances of back pain are often temporary inconveniences or treatable when diagnosed and treated early. However, it’s just as important for a doctor or spine specialist, such as a Los Angeles spine surgeon, to consider the mental effects of spine-related pain when treating teens, especially since younger adults are often facing anxiety from their academic pursuits and personal lives. This kind of stress can also contribute to back pain and the risky behaviors discussed above.
Teens with back pain, no matter what the cause, need to have it diagnosed and treated as early as possible to increase their chances of full recovery, normal growth, and an active adulthood. The spinal health professionals at The Spine Institute have experience treating people of all ages. If your teen is experiencing unusual or severe back pain, call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.