It’s bad enough that roughly 80 percent of adults will experience back pain at some point in our lives, but now it seems that the problem is starting to spread down to our children. As upsetting as that is, the good news is that most of them will require no treatment. Even better, there are steps that parents can take to protect their children. The key to prevention lies in understanding where the problem is coming from.
Where adult back pain generally comes from a combination of genetics, degeneration with aging and injuries, America’s children are experiencing back pain as a result of increases in weight, sports injuries, overly heavy backpacks and poor posture, particularly while using electronics.
The study was led by Dr. Peter Fabricant, who treats pediatric patients at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery. The research was presented to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ annual meeting in Las Vegas, surveyed approximately 3,700 kids between the ages of 10 and 18, with age and gender evenly split. It found that one in three had experienced back pain in the previous year. A closer examination of those results revealed that the heavier and older the kids were, the more likely they were to have reported pain, and that the kids with the highest incidence of back pain were those who play competitive sports.
Dr. Fabricant indicated that the results did not come as a surprise to him, and that the good news is that most get better without intervention: “We see a lot of kids who have pain from overuse injuries or joint pain from playing sports. Of these kids who had back pain, very few actually required any sort of medical intervention. Most didn’t need treatment at all.”
Though the study found that girls experienced back pain more than boys, it found that the experience of pain consistently rose roughly 4% with each year of age. Most involved lower back pain, and a surprising 15% indicated that their pain was bad enough that it kept them from sleeping or woke them up. These impacts were more apparent in those who played JV and varsity sports like basketball, soccer, football and baseball, though dance also ranked high for back pain incidence. Of those reporting pain, less than half sought treatment, and those who did seek help generally turned to physical therapy.
Heavy backpacks were also contributing factors to back pain, and especially among those who only carried it over one shoulder than those who wore the packs as they are designed to be worn, using both straps with the weight spread across the back.
The greatest concern about the statistical increase in children experiencing back pain is that those who are feeling pain in their youth are far more likely to have back pain as adults. To counter this impact, the researchers are encouraging parents to engage their children in exercise that will stretch and strengthen key muscles while avoiding activities that exacerbate pain. They also warn parents that kids who spend too much time hunched over phone screens are also likely to make their problems worse.
If you are experiencing back pain, there is help available. Contact our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey today to set up an appointment to come in for a consultation.