Adolescent back pain is more common than most think, and this pain can form for a number of reasons. Back pain causes in teens can be due to sports, injuries, disorders, or even just poor sleep.
While back pain in teens can stem from a variety of common activities, persistent back pain in young children and teenagers can be due to a more serious condition.
Muscular back pain is one of the most common causes of back pain in teens and children. The pain may be caused by muscle strains, overuse, or poor conditioning of the back.
Teenagers commonly develop muscular back pain when overextending themselves, playing sports, straining a ligament, or having poor posture.
Pain in the back caused by muscular pain is usually relieved when being still or resting. However, moving around can heighten the pain.
Spinal bone and spinal disc infections occur more frequently in adolescents and young children than in adults. These infections can cause complications when left untreated, though it is difficult to diagnose.
The difference between a serious condition, such as a spinal infection, and common back pain is the presence of other symptoms that resemble illness. Infections can cause back pain, fevers, and symptoms of malaise.
A fracture to the bone located at the back of the spinal column is known as spondylolysis. This type of injury is prevalent in young teens who participate in sports where hyperextension is common, such as gymnastics.
These types of injuries can lead to further problems if not treated, including spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis is when a fracture or injury is present on both sides of the spinal column. This condition can cause shifting of the vertebral column.
Whether one side or both, stress fractures to the spinal column can be serious and cause intense pain in teens. Treatment is important in preventing the complete loss of spinal alignment.
Scoliosis is not uncommon amongst teenagers and older children, but developing intense pain from scoliosis at a young age is less likely. While scoliosis may still cause discomfort, there is no direct connection between teens with scoliosis and intense back pain from this condition.
Treatment for scoliosis should still begin as soon as possible to prevent further complications and/or future back pain.
Other Causes of Back Pain in Teens
In addition to those listed, a few more causes of back pain in adolescents may be:
- Disc herniations
- Deformity or abnormality in the spinal alignment
- Spinal tumors
- Sprains or tears
When to Seek Medical Help
Back pain, depending on the cause, can often be resolved on its own. If pain is sudden, sharp, or if numbness occurs, seek professional assistance to determine the cause and begin treatment.
In addition, consult a care provider if back pain is accompanied by a fever, intense stomach pain, or sudden weight loss. If a teen’s pain persists for weeks, a medical professional should be contacted.
Other signs to seek medical help include:
- Numbness or tingling in legs
- Have suffered an accident or serious trauma
- Loss of bladder control or difficulty passing stools
- Pain stemming down one or both legs
- Experience redness or swelling
For self-treatment, a few options are available. Resting for up to two days is recommended while allowing the pain to resolve itself. An over-the-counter pain reliever can also help, whether naproxen or ibuprofen.
Often, an ice pack or heat pad can aid in relieving the pain temporarily.
Tips to Prevent Back Pain
It can be easy to sit in one position for too long or to rest in positions that are not comfortable on the back. Teens should move and stretch in between sitting and not sit in one place for extended periods of time. Stretching and moving around can help immensely.
Maintaining a good posture, as best as possible, can also alleviate some of the pain experienced by teens. Prolonged periods of bad posture can cause discomfort and even chronic back pain.
Do not overuse or overexert while performing activities. Be sure that you or your teen are taking breaks when necessary. Rest on days after intense workouts.
Talk with one of our board-certified pediatricians if you are worried about potential causes of back pain in your teenager or adolescent.