Low back pain common in school-age children: study

girl playing soccer

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Columbus, OH – Low back pain is common in school-age children, but only 7 percent of adolescents get medical care for the pain, according to research from Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine.

Researchers reviewed literature about diagnosis, treatment, prevention and other issues regarding low back pain. They found that although most cases in school-age children are mild, low back pain can limit daily activities such as attending school or playing sports.

The majority of cases are due to trauma or musculoskeletal overuse, including sports. Other possible risk factors identified are a family history of low back pain, rapid growth, a previous back injury and gender – girls are at a higher risk for low back pain, the researchers said. They added that prevalence rises with age – 1 percent at age 7, 6 percent at age 10, and 18 percent between the ages of 14 and 16.

The researchers say children and adolescents are at a greater risk for trauma and “explosive muscle contractions” because their musculoskeletal systems are developing. They recommend that young athletes participate in sports for fewer hours in a week than the number of years in their age. The findings also convey the importance of conditioning programs and training – as well as rest – before a sports season to increase intensity and reduce injuries.

“Historically, pediatric training has emphasized that a specific factor or factors cause low back pain in children and adolescents, but recent studies have informed us that is not necessarily the case,” Dr. James P. MacDonald, lead author of the review and sports medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said in a press release. “It is important for physicians to have a firm understanding of the relevant spinal anatomy and the etiological factors of low back pain in children and adolescents.”

The study was published online Jan. 30 in JAMA Pediatrics.

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