While back pain is a problem typically associated with aging, several aspects of teenagers' lives can cause them to experience it. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that one in three adolescents have reported back pain for various reasons ranging from too much exercise to too little.
One of the most important findings from this study, though, is that it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact cause of an adolescent's back pain, even with advanced and expensive testing. For nearly two thirds of the patients in the study, clinical physical examination and imaging may never deduce a clear cause for their back pain. In a news release, Dr. Suken A. Shah, the study's lead author, explained that it could be from muscle strain, poor posture, too much training in a single sport or multiple sports in the same season, or from too little activity or lack of exercise. Other common causes include stress fractures, disk hernias and infections.
"If your history, physical exam or simple tests reveal a diagnosis problem, this can be treated early and you will probably be able to return to your activities or sport," said Shah, who is also division chief at Nemours Spine and Scoliosis Center, Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
The study notes that there are three different kinds of back pain. Back pain that is typically dull or achy is easy to treat with rest and anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. Regular physical therapy and strengthening the core muscles near the abdomen may help with prevention. Other types of back pain should be taken more seriously, though. Shah explained that adolescent patients should be aware of any weakness, numbness or pain down the leg, pain that disrupts sleep or gets worse over a few days. In those cases, it's necessary to seek immediate medical attention.
For less serious cases, some simple lifestyle changes can prevent or minimize back pain. Shah recommends that teens work on maintaining good posture, core muscle strength and flexibility in addition to consistently exercising, avoiding heavy backpacks and wearing them with both straps to evenly distribute weight.
If your teen is experiencing chronic back pain, schedule an appointment with a professional chiropractor today.