01-05-2020

Back pain in children: primary causes and tips on prevention

Back pain in children can occur for various reasons, ranging from bad habits to disease. In this post, the experts in spinal pathologies at Instituto Clavel will explain what the main causes are, offer prevention tips and help you decide when it is necessary to go to the doctor.

Back pain is not as common in children as in adults, in fact, it rarely occurs before the age of 6. After the age of 10, the likelihood increases, and with the arrival of adolescence, between the ages of 13 and 15, it can exceed a percentage of 50%. After age 16, the frequency is the same as in adults, that is, 80% of them will suffer at least one episode of back pain in their lives.

In recent years, this pain has been associated on many occasions with excessive weight in school bags. And although it is true that this situation can cause back pain at the cervical, dorsal or lumbar level, there are many other possible causes that should be considered when a child complains of discomfort in this area

Before reviewing the main causes, Instituto Clavel would like to remind you that it is essential not to ignore pain that may appear at this time of your life, since numerous studies relate back pain in children and adolescents to the presence of back pain in adults.

 

Causes of back pain in children

As we mentioned at the beginning, back pain can be attributed to various different causes, including in the case of children. Here below, we review the most usual causes: 

  • Poor posture: although bad posture most commonly takes its toll later, around the age of 30 or 40, it can also be the cause of pain in children, especially if it is a repeated posture. 
  • Lack of physical activity: a sedentary lifestyle can have very negative effects on the back. This is so because the muscles of the area and abdomen are weakened, which can favor the appearance of pain. 
  • Overweight and obesity: excess body weight overburdens the musculoskeletal system, which can lead to back problems, especially at the lumbar level. 
  • Carrying or lifting too much weight: this could be the school backpack, either due to its excess weight or the way it is worn, but also any other heavy item that is lifted incorrectly.  
  • Injuries: blows, falls or accidents can be the cause of back pain.
  • Stress or anxiety: feeling bad emotionally can affect a person physically and cause back pain. 
  • Disease: pain in this area of the body can be a symptom caused by another disease such as scoliosis, spondylosis, and, although less commonly, some types of cancer. 

 

Tips on preventing back pain, starting from an early age

The good news is that, as have seen above, several of the causes of back pain can be prevented. Here we list several useful tips to help take care of your back both in the short and long term, and thus avoid chronic or degenerative pain. 

  • Mind your posture: maintaining good posture habits is essential for preventing back problems. In the case of children, it is especially important that they do this while at school, since it is one of the places where they spend the most time. These are the main posture guidelines: 
    • The back should be straight and supported by the back of the chair. 
    • The feet should be on the floor.
    • The elbows should rest on the table or on chair armrests.
    • Write or read without leaning over the table. 
    • Take short breaks between classes so the children can get up and stretch.

In addition to the above, it is also important to promote good posture when sleeping; it should be preferably on your back or on your side. Likewise, it is important that the mattress and pillow are of good quality. 

  • Encourage physical activity: getting regular exercise is one of the most effective measures to prevent back pain. Making sports a part of life beginning in childhood is key to making it a lifelong habit. To maintain this habit in the long run, it is best to choose sports or exercise activities that you really like and enjoy.  
  • Maintain a healthy body weight: to achieve this, applying the previous point about exercise will be essential, but also eating as healthily as possible, including lots of fruit and vegetables. 
  • Take care that the weight of the child’s backpack not exceed 10% of the child’s weight and make sure that they always wear it hung on both shoulders, close to the body. Another alternative is to use schoolbags with wheels, or trolleys, which free the back of weight. 
  • Avoid lifting heavy weights, and if you must, do it this way: bend your knees, keeping your back straight, and get as close as possible to the object you are going to lift. 

When should I see a doctor?

Whenever a child complains of severe back pain with no apparent cause and that does not go away, we recommend that you go to the pediatrician, especially if the affected child is under 10 years old and some of the following symptoms occur:

  • Fever or general ill feeling.
  • Weight loss.
  • Difficulty moving the arms or legs
  • Changes in posture or the manner of walking.
  • Difficulty controlling sphincters. 

In addition, if the pain is caused by an accident, a sports injury or even bad habits, it is also advisable to go to the pediatrician for evaluation and, if necessary, go to a specialist and to rehabilitation with a physical therapist. This way, you can put a solution to the problem and prevent it from getting worse.

At Instituto Clavel we have more than 20 years of experience in spinal pathologies and we are at your disposal for completely personalized advice if you have any questions or need more information about pain back in children.

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