Sports injuries are just one frequent cause, study finds

January 30, 2017

MONDAY, Jan. 30, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Low back pain is common in school-age American children, and rates increase with age, researchers say.

By the time they're teenagers, nearly two out of five kids will have suffered lower back pain, a review of prior studies found.

But only 7 percent of teens with low back pain seek care, said researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Most cases of low back pain in youngsters are not serious, but they can affect school attendance and participation in gym class or sports. Also, teens with low back pain are at increased risk for low back pain when they're adults.

For this report, researchers analyzed previously published studies. They found that back pain affects 1 percent of 7-year-olds, 6 percent of 10-year-olds and 18 percent of teens ages 14-16.

There is no single risk factor or factors for low back pain in school-aged children. Likely factors include sports and other types of physical activity, body growth, previous back injury and a family history of low back pain. Females are also at greater risk, the study said.

"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," said review lead author Dr. James MacDonald. He's a sports medicine physician at Nationwide Children's.

"Most pain with no specific cause responds to rest, rehabilitation and identification of predisposing risk factors," he said in a hospital news release.

Though the causes of children's lower back pain are usually benign, the researchers recommend a thorough checkup by a primary care physician to rule out anything more serious.

"While some lower back pain needs to be treated by a specialist, most pediatricians who have a good understanding of the principles outlined in our article can help children and adolescents prevent and manage lower back pain," MacDonald noted.

Because many backaches are sports-related, the researchers emphasized the importance of preseason sports conditioning programs to help reduce injuries.

"Additionally, rest should be incorporated into the training regimen, especially for athletes who perform repetitive motions, such as tumbling in gymnastics," the researchers said.

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

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on low back pain.

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