Back Pain In Children - Causes, Symptoms And Remedies

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It is a common assumption that back pain occurs only in those who cross a certain age.

In reality, the scenario of children suffering from severe back pain is becoming quite common these days. The blame can be put either on the heavy school bags or a hyperactive life.

Ideally, instances of lower back pain in children should not be ignored. More often than not, your child may suffer from temporary back pain and sprain and recover fast. But in rare circumstances the back pain can be a severe medical condition which could be risky.

Back Pain In Children:

Back pain in children differs from back pain in adults. In comparison to an adult, the child suffering from back pain is more likely to have a serious related disorder. It is true in the case of children who are of age 4 and below, or if they have the following issues:

  • Weight loss and fever
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Walking difficulty
  • Pain in one or both the legs
  • Bladder or bowel problems
  • Sleeping difficulty due to the pain

More serious causes of sudden back pain in children require early prognosis and treatment so that they don’t turn worse. You should always check with a doctor if your little one’s back pain remains for more days and worsen progressively.

[ Read: Joint Pain In Children ]

Back Pain According To Your Child’s Age:

Your child’s activity changes as he ages. A 5 to 10 year old child is less aggressive in activities than a child above 10 years. So according to your child’s age, the medical diagnosis is carried on.

1. If your child is below 10 years:

  • Around this age, there are very less chances your child will be involving in activities that develop stress on the spine.
  • Any pain or discomfort he experiences will be short lived
  • There are chances of spine infection or tumor that needs an immediate medical attention.

2. If your child is above 10 years:

  • Your child must be aggresively involving in sports and other physical activities around this age that can harm his spine and thus cause back pain.
  • There are high chances that he may suffer disc injuries, compressional fractures, joint pains and vertebrae injuries that leas to back pain
  • Whatever might be the condition, it requires an immediate medical attention.

Physical Causes Of Back Pain In Children:

The common causes of back pain in kids, both upper as well as lower back, are as follows:

  1. Poor body postures like slumping or slouching while sitting or standing.
  1. Playing sports which puts excessive strain on muscles, pressure on the ligaments or causes injury to spine.
  1. Falling on back or getting hit or severe injury on the back.
  1. Lifting something excessively heavy which leads to disc dislocation.
  1. Getting sudden jolts like in a car accident.
  1. Sedentary lifestyle such as watching television for long hours or being infront of the computer.
  1. Soft tissue injuries like sprains or strains
  1. Competitive sports that require intense training

[ Read: Broken Tailbone In Children ]

Back Pain Due To Medical Conditions In Children:

As children involve more and more in activities, certain injuries causing back pain will arise. Those causes are as follows:

  1. Spondylosis – It is a defect of any joint between the vertebral bones and develops in those who try to bend backwards i.e. hyperextend their backs. It represents a stress fracture and the period of rest and covery will be long, nearly upto 4 – 6 weeks.
  1. Spondylolisthesis – It is a condition where one vertebra slips over another vertebra. It progresses through adolescence and therefore results in back pain that requires a spinal fusion surgery in the future.
  1. Vertebral Fractures And Disc Injuries – Especially teens are prone to these conditions as they involve themselves in extreme sports like in-line skating, skateboarding and vert biking. These sports indulge them to land hard on their buttocks or feet, thus the force transmits on the vertebrae. This will ultimately result in damage to vertebrae and intervertebral discs.
  1. Vertebral Osteomyelitis – It is an infection of the vertebral column in the spinal region. It is one of the rare causes of back pain in younger children.
  1. Spinal Tumor – Spinal tumors occur in the nerves of the spinal cord, thus causing back pain as one of the symptoms. It is a very rare cause again.

Symptoms Of Back Pain In Children:

If your child suffers from any back injury then he will show the following symptoms:

  1. Aching in the back muscles
  1. Sharp or hurting feeling in the back
  1. Unable to bend or continue daily activities like before
  1. Headache
  1. Pain that spreads across the shoulder blades
  1. Pain that turns worse when sleeping

In rare cases, some serious symptoms occur that may indicate a severe condition.

  • Numbness of arms and legs
  • Weakness of arms and legs
  • Incontinence

You should contact your child’s doctor immediately if you notice these above symptoms.

[ Read: Scoliosis In Children ]

Tests And Diagnosis For Back Pain In Children:

Your child’s doctor will learn about how the problem might have developed and then conducts physical tests accordingly.

Medical History:

Your doctor will ask some general questions regarding your little one’s overall health and the pain. This will help your doctor to ascertain the conditions responsible for your child’s back ache.

It is very crucial for your healthcare provider to know the location of pain, its severity and its interference with any activities. For instance, if the back pain is in the leg, it can be due to pressure radiating from the nerve.

Physical Examination:

Your doctor carefully examines your little one’s nerves, bones and muscles, and checks thoroughly the following:

  1. Spine – Your doctor feels through each vertebra and checks for any deformities in the mobility and alignment of spine. Increased curvature to the side, or increased roundness of the back are important to note. He checks for the posture, walking gait and child’s ability to bend to touch the toes, and bending towards right and left. Difficulty with any of these movements indicates that it is a problem with the spinal joints.
  1. Nerves In The Back – Your doctor will conduct specific tests for intervertebral disks that usually cause pressure on the nerves. He will perform straight leg raising test and reverse straight leg raising test. This helps to understand the problems with intervertebral disks.
  1. Muscles – The doctor examines muscles of the back and legs. Hamstring muscles at the back of your thigh or tightness in the back muscles show that your little one is trying to protect himself from positions and movements that cause pain. Muscle tenderness indicates strain.

Flexibility, balance, muscle strength and coordination are a part of physical examination.

Imaging Tests:

Your doctor may use some diagnostic imaging tools to check the interior of the body.

  1. X-Rays – Spine X rays will show displacements, fractures or any other problems in the bones.
  1. Bone Scans – This imaging test shows infections, inflammation, fractures and tumors. As the spine anatomy is complicate and all the diseases may not be visible on X-ray, bone scan works.
  1. CT (Computed Tomography) Scans – It is a special X-ray technique that gives a 3D image and allows to view things that are not possible by 2D X-rays. It helps to understand the complex anatomy of the spine.
  1. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – It is a valuable technique that shows tissues. It is useful in viewing the nerve roots, spinal cord, soft tissues and disks.
  1. PET (Positron Emission Tomography) – It gives a 3D image of functional processes inside the body.

Lab Tests:

Blood tests that include complete blood cell count, sedimentation rate of erythrocytes and C-reactive protein show the presence of infection or inflammation.

Treatment For Back Pain In Children:

If your child is suffering from back pain which is not of a severe nature, you can try initial remedies at home. If your child does not show any improvement in condition, then it is always advisable to meet the doctor immediately.

1. Over The Counter Medication:

  • You can let your child have painkillers or medications which are considered safe by doctors.
  • You can use relieving spray and ointments in case of muscle pull or strain.

2. Heat Bag:

  • Heat bag can be relieving and can be kept on the area where your child is feeling pain.
  • Apart from this you can also use hot water bottle or a heating pad. When you use such equipment be sure to keep the temperature in control and avoid burning the skin.

3. Muscle Stretching & Strengthening:

  • Once the initial pain has subsided, you should try and help your child do some stretching exercise.
  • This will ensure that his muscles gain some strength to make the body retain its normal activity.

[ Read: Stretching Exercises For Kids ]

4. Do Not Support Complete Inactivity:

  • Usually complete bed rest is not supported under such circumstances and your child should be active.
  • Ensure he does not undergo any over-exertion though.

Prevention Of Back Pain In Children:

If your child suffers recurring bouts of back pain, the following preventive measures can be of help:

  • You can try to minimize the risks of falls by using safety straps in baby carriers, prams and strollers.
  • Spread tanbark around the surroundings where your children often play to cushion falls.
  • Encourage them to take walking and stretching breaks while doing academic works since sitting for long time can cause tiredness of back muscles.
  • Limit computer and television time.
  • Teach them to sit straight on a chair rather than slouching.
  • It would be better to buy an ergonomic chair for your child so that they experience no posture issues.
  • Ensure to involve them in everyday exercises.

Whatever may be the reason, if your child is suffering constant back pain, it is better to check with your health care provider immediately. Feel free to share any insights relating to back pain and about any of your experiences in the past.

We hope the above information will help you in getting an idea of how to help your children with back pain.

Do share with us some important insights relating to back pain and how you helped your child.

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