According to Orthoinfo, Yes. Back pain in children may signal a more serious condition. This is especially true if the child is younger than four years of age.
Back pain is quite common during childhood. Up to 70% of children experience back pain by the age of 15. Some instances result from serious medical conditions. Activity or overuse injuries may contribute to others.
See a medical provider at once if your child’s back pain lasts for more than several days or gets worse. If fever, nausea, tingling, numbness, trouble sleeping or walking, accompany back pain, it may signal a more serious condition.
What causes back pain in children?
Like an adult’s spine, a child’s back has 33 vertebrae. These spinal bones are divided into five sections.
- The cervical spine extends between the skull and the shoulders.
- The thoracic spine holds the rib cage in place.
- The lumbar spine, which includes the lower back, is between the rib cage and the hip bones.
- The sacrum, a shield-shaped bone, attaches to the hips and pelvis.
- The coccyx, commonly known as the tailbone, is at the very end of the spine.
Overuse injuries contribute to childhood back pain.
With all the childhood activities, there are many things that could affect health. These include overuse injuries that tax muscles and bones beyond normal limits.
- Muscles strains are one of the most common reasons for childhood back pain. Falls and backpack injuries can also lead to muscle strains.
- Spinal stress fractures, known as spondylolysis, are also common in childhood. Young athletes involved in physically taxing sports like wrestling, gymnastics, and track and field events like high jumps, are vulnerable to injury.
Bone deformities and fractures cause pain.
Deformities or movement of the bones in the spine also trigger childhood back pain. When the vertebrae, the bones in the back move, they can cause balance and flexibility issues. When the bones compress the nerves, it can cause tingling and numbness.
- Spondylolisthesis describes the condition of the lumbar vertebra slipping out of place. Physical deformities, overuse injuries, stress fractures, and arthritis often contribute to slipped discs or fractures in spinal bones.
- Scoliosis or curvature of the spine is a common diagnosis in teens. Most cases are mild, but some require major surgery to correct.
- Poor posture can lead to childhood back pain. The body was designed to move, not sit for hours at a desk or on the couch, especially in a slouching position. Helping your child to sit up straight and walk with good posture is the first step toward back pain prevention.
Illnesses and falls often require medical attention to resolve pain.
Some illnesses and injuries lead to back pain. When a child experiences back pain, he or she should be seen by a medical provider for diagnosis and treatment.
- Back injuries from falls or other injuries often require medical attention.
- Osteomyelitis is a staph infection that starts somewhere else in the body and spreads to the bone. Fever, swelling, and fatigue often accompany osteomyelitis. Fortunately, antibiotics can treat this condition successfully. Left untreated, bone infections may lead to surgical intervention.
- Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that affects children and teens. The cancer cells often develop in the bone-building osteoblast cells. This cell overgrowth often causes pain.
- Kidney infections cause sharp pain on one side of the back. Kidney infections require medical treatment.
How is childhood back pain treated?
Like most orthopedic injuries, rest, ice, heat, and anti-inflammatory medication promote healing. However, if the symptoms are not improving, the child may need to visit an orthopedic specialist.
After making a diagnosis, the orthopedic provider may prescribe a variety of medical treatments, including the following:
- Braces to stabilize the back and give it time to heal.
- Physical therapy to build muscle strength, increase flexibility, and improve range of motion.
- Prescribed at-home exercises to build on progress made during physical therapy.
- Surgery procedures to repair soft tissues or reset bones that have moved out of place.
If your child experiences back pain that does not get better with rest, make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist. Bone & Joint’s skilled and knowledgeable orthopedic providers can help diagnose and treat back pain.