Potential Causes of Back Pain in Children and Teens

While adults can have vertebral disc injuries involving rupture, protrusion or slipping, and compression, these problems are uncommon in children. However, as kids age and their bodies mature, it becomes more likely that an injury to the spinal discs may occur and cause back pain.

Causes of Back Pain that Tend to Occur Among Older Children:

  • Spondylolysis. As kids’ sporting events become more competitive and the activities more specialized, certain types of injuries causing back pain tend to arise.  Spondylosis, a defect of the joint between vertebral bones, is commonly found in those who tend to hyperextend their backs (bend backwards), such as gymnasts. This injury may actually represent a stress fracture and the period of rest and recuperation may be extensive – up to 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Spondylolisthesis. Occasionally, further injury can be found as spondylolisthesis, a “slipping” of one vertebra upon another. This condition can progress through adolescence, and if it results in instability and back pain it may require spinal fusion surgery at a later point.
  • Disc Injuries and vertebral fractures. Teens who tend to punish their spines through gymnastics or extreme sports (such as skateboarding, in-line skating, and vert biking) will frequently land very hard on their feet or buttocks. Either way, the force is transmitted to their vertebrae, which can result in a vertebral fracture  and/or damage to the intervertebral discs.If the disc material is extruded out or herniated, the spinal cord nerve roots leaving the cord can be compressed. This causes the sensation of pain along the path of that nerve. A well-known version of this is sciatica which presents as buttock pain radiating down the back of a leg. Nonsurgical measures are usually the first line of treatment for this type of pain (such as physical therapy, medications, osteopathic or
    chiropractic adjustment If these treatments do not provide sufficient pain relief, patients may require surgery (e.g. a microdiscectomy or discectomy) to relieve pressure on the nerve.


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