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Back Pain in Children and Teenagers

Topic Overview

Because children and teenagers are more flexible, back pain is not as common in this age group as it is in adults. Back pain in a child that occurs immediately after an injury or an athletic event should be checked by a doctor.

Back pain in children and teens may also be caused by an overuse injury. Children or their parents may not be able to remember when the back problem started or to recall an injury or change in activity that triggered the back problem. Carrying a heavy backpack may increase a child's chances of a back problem or injury.

Back pain that is severe enough to limit a child's activity or that lasts for 2 weeks or longer needs to be checked by a doctor.

Back conditions that affect children and teens

  • Pain that is made worse by specific movements, such as handsprings in gymnastics, the butterfly stroke in swimming, or contact sports, may be caused by spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. Young athletes with low back pain have a higher-than-average incidence of spondylolysis. These injuries are usually caused by activity and overuse.
  • Scheuermann's disease causes pain that is not severe enough to limit activity. It is the second most common cause of back pain in children and young adults. Your child may have a rounded spine.
  • A child who is awakened at night by pain should be seen by a doctor, as an infection, arthritis, or tumour of the spine can cause awakening from sleep.
  • A child with back pain and changes in balance or coordination should be seen by a doctor, as this may be caused by a problem in the brain or spinal cord.

There can be many other reasons for your child or teen’s back pain, however the most likely cause is overuse or a strain in the muscles that support the back. Gentle exercise, physiotherapy, pain medicines and rest can help your child to recover. If your child or teen doesn’t get better with these treatments, it’s important to see your doctor or healthcare provider to rule out other causes of back pain.


Adaptation Date: 8/16/2021

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

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