One-in-three students has back pain, could be linked to athletics

One-in-three students has back pain, could be linked to athletics

(Nev.) Preliminary results from a new study show that about one-third of children and adolescents ages 10 to 18 reported having back pain during the previous year–something researchers found could be linked in part to participation in physically taxing school sports.

In a presentation at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ annual meeting last week, Doctor Peter Fabricant said that despite the prevalence of back pain experienced by adults, back pain in children is rarely examined.

“While adult back pain has been widely quantified and studied, there has been little research looking into similar effects on children and adolescents,” Fabricant, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, said in a statement. “We know that it’s a real issue affecting kids and this study allowed us to collect a vast amount of data and provide a high-level analysis. Now we can use these results to further study specific activity-based, physiological, and psychosocial contributors to back pain in this population.”

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, about 80 percent of adults suffer from lower back pain at some time. The majority of students in the newest study reported experiencing back pain in the same area.

Fabricant’s study included close to 3,700 students equally split by age and sex, and proportionally representative of the population of their state of residence.

Nearly 34 percent reported having some episode of back pain in the previous year. Among that group, almost half said the pain was worse in the evenings, and more than 15 percent said back pain interrupted their sleep.

Typically, participants who reported back pain weighed more and had higher body mass indexes. And at 38 percent, girls were more likely to report back pain than boys, at 29 percent. Researchers noted that the with each year of increasing age, the percentage pf kids reporting back pain rose about 4 percent.

Aside from weight and gender, Fabricant found correlations tied to participation in competitive sports. Junior varsity and varsity athletes experienced back pain more often than younger or recreational players, for instance. Many of the survey participants reported being active–the most common sport among the students was basketball, followed by dance, baseball, football and soccer.

Researchers also highlighted in the report a possible correlation between experiencing back pain and the type of backpack a student uses or how they carry it. Those who used backpacks with two straps were least likely to have back pain, at just over 30 percent. Meanwhile, close to 43 percent of those who used just one strap reported back pain, followed by about 47 percent of those who use a backpack with two straps and the waistband fastened.

More than 54 percent of students who reported back pain used rolling backpacks. Researchers said it was likely that students began using differing backpacks to ease their back pain, however, Fabricant said the study was not designed to test causation.

Among those who reported back pain, only 41 percent sought treatment. Physical therapy was the most common, at 44 percent, followed by massage therapy at 34 percent, and chiropractic treatment at 34 percent.

The good news, researchers found, was that back pain in children and adolescents very rarely required invasive treatment such as injections or surgery. Only 5 percent of those who sought out treatment needed surgical or procedural intervention.

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