An aching back causes discomfort and can interfere with daily activities, depending on the severity. While rare, children sometimes experience back pain just like adults do. The causes of the back pain vary and sometimes include serious medical conditions. Evaluating your child’s back pain allows you to determine the need for medical interventions.
Back pain is a more common problem for adults than children. Young children in particular don’t experience back pain by itself often. Back pain in young children is sometimes an indicator of another health problem. The number of kids who experience back pain increases over time. As a child reaches the teen years, he could have back pain due to strenuous activities or sports-related injuries.
The additional symptoms your child experiences along with the back pain help identify the true cause of the pain. Note the severity of the back pain and any changes in frequency or intensity. Fever, changes in eating habits, weight loss, numbness, bowel and bladder control problems, walking problems and general weakness might indicate a more severe cause of the pain. Contact your child’s physician if any of these symptoms appear with the back pain.
Strain or overuse causes some back pain, particularly for older children and teens. Back pain in children is often caused by developmental problems. A stress fracture in the back, called spondylolysis, is one possible cause found in kids 10 or older. If the stress fractures cause the bones to become weak, slipping is possible and results in more back pain. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and similar disorders can cause back pain. These infectious or auto-immune problems often include other symptoms like irritability, fever or lack of appetite. Tumors on the spine are rare but could be another possible cause of pain.
The treatment depends largely on the cause of the child’s back pain. Treating the disorder that triggers the discomfort often reduces the pain. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen helps reduce the pain, especially if it is caused by muscle strain or overuse. Follow all dosing directions to avoid a reaction to the pain reliever. Encourage your child to change positions to reduce the pain or discomfort.
The rarity of child back pain makes it important to follow up with your child’s doctor when the pain does occur. Early intervention by a medical professional allows treatment to start early, especially if the cause is a serious medical condition. If an injury or trauma to the back causes the pain, have the injury evaluated right away to make sure it isn’t serious.