Back Pain in Children and Teenagers

When our Kids complain of back pain it is important to understand the reasons as it is generally agreed that poor postural habits from a young age can be a precursor to back pain later in life.

Back pain is common in Australian children and adolescents with the changes in our lifestyles often contributing to more discomfort in their backs. Some causes of back pain in young people include poor posture, inappropriate forms of exercise and possibly carrying heavy schoolbags. Back soreness can be felt at many levels – upper, middle or lower.

What causes back pain?

While a single traumatic incident can cause sudden pain, cases of nagging, ongoing back pain seem to be caused by a range of factors working in combination. The most common causes include repetitive and poorly executed daily habits and activities.

Some contributing factors may be :

Poor posture:

Poor posture such as slouching and asymmetry can not only be uncomfortable but lead to pain reduced concentration, fatigue and reduced confidence. Sitting for too long, on the wrong furniture or in stressful positions can further contribute to back pain. Eight Tips to Help Poor Postures


Sustained and asymmetrical postures can influence the loads on your spine to disperse incorrectly, placing strains on the tissues in your back. As a result, the intricate network of muscles, discs, and joints tend to be pushed beyond their tolerable limit, causing pain. Specific tightness and /or weakness can further exacerbate the discomfort.

Lack of Exercise

Inactivity or using the wrong techniques when exercising can cause muscle pulls or ligament strains. Long periods in a seated position such as the demands of studying especially in years 11 and 12 prevent normal strengthening and mobility. Modern digital devices often glue even young children to one spot for a long time, with their heads down at the expense of playing outside and being active.

Too much or inappropriate Exercise

Over recent years the severity and frequency of Childrens Sporting injuries including back pain have increased, possibly due to the increased loads of multiple sports and also when there is early specialization into a single sport. Children are still growing their bones, tendons, muscles and ligaments, making them more susceptible to some of these injuries. Sporting Injuries need to be taken seriously.

Back Packs

The jury is still out on how much effect Back packs have on children and adolescent back pain. What parents need to know about backpacks. Parents and carers can reduce the risk of schoolbag-related back problems by making sure their child has an appropriately sized and fitted backpack and a load that isn’t too heavy or incorrectly packed.

Growing pains

Periods of rapid growth can sometimes be attributed to causing back pain.

Medical conditions that can cause back pain in children and teenagers

The vast majority of back pains are benign, mild and soft tissue related, however check with their GP if:

  • Your child is under 10 years old and there is no clear reason for their back pain (eg a fall)
  • Your child has any other symptoms, for example, a fever, bladder or bowel dysfunction, changes in sensation (eg numbness or pins and needles) or decreased strength in the arm or leg.
  • The pain wakes your child from sleep.

In some cases the pain is caused by medical conditions that require professional treatment. These can include:

  • Injuries to bones and joints – such as compression fractures and disc injuries
  • Fibromyalgia –a rare chronic pain disorder causing back and neck pain, with muscle spasm and fatigue
  • Sciatica – pain radiating down the buttock and leg, caused by compression of the sciatic nerve
  • Scheuermann’s disease – a growth disorder of the vertebrae in adolescents, which may produce a curvature (kyphosis)
  • Idiopathic scoliosis – sideways curvature of the spine with an unknown cause. It is usually not painful but needs assessment, management and monitoring.
  • Spondylosis – a congenital structural defect in the vertebrae. Certain activities may increase the potential for pain (for example, hyperextending the spine in gymnastics, tennis and athletics.


This is done by our experienced Physiotherapists in order to understand the factors that are contributing to back pain. This includes a detailed history, assessing range of movement, dynamic and static postures, muscle length and strength and Core stability.

Young sports people may require assessment of sporting technique and or discussion with their coaches if applicable.

From the examination we establish a plan to address both the immediate symptoms and the underlying causes including improving teenage posture pain and avoiding the muscle fatigue symptoms.

What you can do

  • You can make the decision to get them some help
  • Assist your child to do their home exercise programme
  • Monitor their posture and time in sitting positions.
  • Provision of regular breaks from sitting at computers can be accompanied by gentle exercises to reduce strain.
  • Parents and carers can reduce the risk of schoolbag-related back problems by making sure their child has an appropriately sized backpack and a load that isn’t too heavy.
  • Awareness of training and playing schedules and over commitment.

Please feel free to call and request to speak with our Physios and they will get back to you to help ascertain if a Physio assessment would be appropriate.

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