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Low Back Pain Treatment for Teens

  • Category: Spine
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Mark Hambly, MD
Low Back Pain Treatment for Teens

According to many studies including one from the American Family Physician[1], low back pain is common among adults and equally prevalent among teenagers, although it can be experienced at any age[2].By far, the most common causes of back pain in teens are sprains and strains due to injury or overuse. This pain typically presents as a broad, ache across the lower back. Fortunately, the pain is self-limited and can easily be managed with conservative measures such as rest, ice, and over the counter anti-inflammatories. This type of pain will get better with time when underlying causes are addressed.

In the age of video games, laptops and mobile phones, it’s unsurprising that factors contributing to low back pain symptoms include poor posture, obesity, heavy backpacks, and hunching over electronic devices. Prevention is crucial. Limiting time sitting at the computer or gaming, exercising regularly, and getting proper sleep can all help alleviate low back pain. Wearing a backpack properly (i.e. on both shoulders) and limiting the carrying load to 10-20% of body weight is also helpful.

Back pain can also be associated with psychosocial issues. If you feel you or your child is experiencing mental health challenges, please seek help with your primary care physician as soon as possible.

If low back pain does not resolve with preventative measures, you should see your primary care physician. Physical therapy may be the first treatment recommended. It’s important that you see a physical therapist who commonly treats back pain. Programs such as HOI’s Back to You spine strengthening program incorporate physical therapy, education regarding the neuroscience of pain, and the effect that diet has on inflammation. This three-pronged approach to treating back pain is supported by peer reviewed research and the World Health Organization.

While sprains, strains, and overuse of muscles are the most common causes of back pain in teens, more serious conditions can be responsible. Teens experiencing nerve pain, persistent pain that won’t go away, or that is getting worse, should be seen by a physician.

Like adults, teenagers can suffer a herniated disc. The lumbar disc herniation typically presents as low back pain and radiating down the leg (sciatica) with or without tingling, numbness, or weakness. If you or your teen are experiencing this type of ongoing pain, you may want to seek the care of a spine specialist who treats these symptoms. Fortunately, the majority of disc herniations can be treated successfully with conservative care.

Another possible cause of teenage back pain can are be vertebral stress fractures, a condition known as spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. These fatigue fractures are typically associated with sports requiring frequent spinal extension, such as gymnastics, ballet, diving, and interior lineman in football. Spondylolisthesis symptoms are most commonly lower back pain, “pins and needles” sensation in the leg with or without weakness in the leg.

The least common, but most serious causes of spinal pain in teens are tumors and infection. Typically, these conditions are associated with severe pain, nocturnal pain (night), weight loss, and/or fever. Teens experiencing these types of pain/symptoms should be seen immediately by a spinal specialist.

Most back pain is preventable. If you take care of your back it will support you for a lifetime.

If you or a loved one think you may need to seek care of a spinal expert or are interested in the Back to You spinal rehabilitation program please visit


[1] Source: