For Parents

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Back Pain in Children and Teenagers

Overview

In most cases, there isn't a clear cause for back pain. Children can have back pain after an injury or sports event. It can also be caused by an overuse injury. An overuse injury can happen when a child uses one part of their body in the same way over and over again. This may cause pain, swelling, or tenderness in that part of the body.

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.

Back pain in a child that occurs right after an injury or an athletic event should be checked by a doctor. 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.

Certain back conditions can also affect children and teens and cause back pain. These include:

  • Spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. 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 these conditions. 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. This disease causes pain that is not severe enough to limit activity. It's a common cause of back pain in children and young adults. In this condition, your child may have a rounded spine.
  • An infection, arthritis, or tumor of the spine, which can keep a child up at night because of the pain.
  • A problem caused by a spinal cord or brain problem. It may cause back pain along with changes in balance or coordination.

Credits

Current as of: March 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine