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Is your Child Complaining of Back Pain?

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Back Pain

Is your Child Complaining of Back Pain?

Dr Sonal
Neurosciences, Neurosurgery
Neurosciences, Neurosurgery
Associate Director and Head - Neurosurgery

Unbearable back pain in children can be a serious ailment and may require early treatment and intervention if it progressively increases or gets worse. A child of any age can witness back pain, which is accompanied by:

  • Numbness or weakness in legs
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Bowel problems
  • Pain that moves down one or both the legs
  • Pain that keeps the child from sleeping

Almost all children and teenagers are flexible and involved in some physical activities; therefore back pain should be less as compared to adults. However, if there is any major athletic injury or mishap, it should be checked immediately by the doctor as it may be difficult for the parent to remember the situation which triggered the back problem.

Causes of Back pain

A two weeks prolonged back pain is enough to restrain your child’s activity and it may require a specialist intervention. Below are few factors to help you know what can lead to a severe back pain:

  • Obesity and poor posture
  • Age Factor: Children above 12 years experience severe back pain as compared to younger children.
  • Sedentary lifestyle or incorrect posture in watching television, or working on a computer
  • Intense training for sports like football, rowing, weightlifting, and horse riding
  • Tissue injuries, sprains, and fractures.

Common Conditions causing back pain in children

  1. Muscle Pain:  Teenagers most often complain of back pain primarily due to tightening of hamstring muscles or weak abdominal muscles. However, physical exercise strengthens their muscles and makes them feel relaxed.
  2. Infection in disc:  It is observed that in younger (ages 1 to 5) children, infection in disc (diskitis) can lead to back pain. The common symptoms experienced are- stiffness of spine, pain in lower back, limping while walking, crouching with a straight spine to pick up something from the floor rather than bending.
  3. Tumor:  If there is persistent pain and it becomes worse overnight, there could be a tumor in the middle or lower back. It is important to get your child physically examined.
  4. Hunched Back:  A common reason of rounded/hunched/wedged back is because of carrying heavy school bags, which presses the vertebrae and worsens the pain.

School Bags and Back Pain

Dr. Sonal Gupta says, A school bag slung over your child’s shoulder can culminate to severe back problems. A school bag ideally weighs more than 10% of your child’s body weight. Holding the straps of bag in one hand, an incorrectly packed bag, carrying the bag on one shoulder for a longer period of time can lead to:

  • Pain in the back muscles
  • ‘S’ shaped curve of spine
  • Round shape of shoulders

During examination, your doctor will ask questions associated with your child’s health and more specifically about the back pain. He would want to know from where did the pain began; whether it is associated with any injury; has it worsened since last one week; is the pain interfering with your child’s school activities. In case it is, there could be a possibility that pressure is exerted on the nerve. During examination, doctor will test your child’s:

  • Legs and thigh muscles for tightness to know that how much exists and whether your child is protecting/hiding from the pain
  • Spine: Each vertebra is examined to check for any deformity. Posture and walking pace, ability to touch the toes and sidewards bending are also tested to know whether ant problem associated with the spine.
  • Flexibility, balance and muscle strength is also tested to indicate pain in the muscles.