We think of teens as too young for lower back pain. Back pain is for the old and weary is the common refrain. It’s for tired bones, years of bad posture and being stressed with life. Teens shouldn’t have any of those. Yet teens do. Lower back pain in teens is one of the more common issues teenagers face. The pains used to wait until college, but more and more lower back pain is being seen in teens.
Spondylolysis. It’s a fancy word for the stresses and strains teens undergo living an active lifestyle. Teens compete heavily in junior high and high school athletics. Some teens work out all year around with club leagues. The constant rigors of sports such as football and gymnastics require an extraordinary amount of bending over for teens. In turn, those teens strain their lower back and may even fracture bones. The result is weeks of extensive rest and healing, and sometimes surgery.
The second most common cause of lower back pain in teens is backpacks. Schools require students to carry large loads on their minds, shoulders and backs. With more and heavier books than ever, teens are lugging around a load. With laptops thrown in, students can’t compete with dozens of pounds on their back. Something has to give and it’s usually the lower back. The back gives way to overuse injuries and strain. The overuse injuries come because teens carry their bags every day during a five-day week for at least 9 months a year. Even at the gym, working the same muscle group daily is frowned upon. When the back pain becomes too much children may hold the backpack on one side overextending one side of the back, causing an unbalance that can shorten legs and curve the spine. Study after study shows that chronic lower back pain in children is associated with heavy backpacks.
A quick note about Scoliosis. Lower back pain in kids and teens can be associated with Scoliosis. Known for an s-shaped curve in the spine, Scoliosis is more common in girls than boys. Severe scoliosis can be remedied or reduced through a brace.
The solutions to most lower back problems require a diverse set of options:
- Start with an annual physical. Physicals including x-rays can diagnose impending lower back problems in teens before the pain arrives. Once the pain comes, the damage is usually done. Beforehand, the teen can take action to prevent or reduce pain.
- Posture is key to correcting some of the strains of other back activities. Whether a heavy backpack or lots of bending, straight posture throughout most of the day and night, straightens the back and alleviates some strain.
- Teach teens about injuries related to sports and which motions to avoid. Make sure teens use proper padding and support during particular strenuous exercises. Research proper techniques and form as well. Using proper form can reduce risk of injury
Preventing lower back pain in teens can be a challenge because of the burdens on the back. Simple measures can help teens avoid injury and keep them healthy in the active lifestyles they lead.