When a child experiences back pain, it is not similar to adults. Unlike with an adult, a child experiencing back pain is likely to have a serious underlying condition. This is true if the child is 4 years old or younger or if the child of any age experiences back pain that is accompanied by the following:
- Numbness or weakness
- Difficulty walking
- Weight loss
- Bladder or bowel issues
- Pain that radiates down one or both legs
- Pain that prevents the child from sleeping well at night
In serious causes of back pain, it needs early identification and treatment or they can worsen. A doctor must be consulted if the back pain lasts for several days or progressively worsens.
Diagnosing back pain among children
The doctor will ask how the issue developed and conduct a physical examination. During the physical examination, the doctor will carefully assess the bones, muscles and nerves.
The doctor will feel each vertebra and check for deformities in the alignment and mobility of the spine. Determining if there is increased roundness of the back or a curve to the side is vital as well as the walking gait and posture. The nerves in the back are also checked since disk problems can cause pressure on the nerves that exit the spine.
The muscles in the legs and back are also tested. The tightness of the back muscles will indicate that the child is trying to protect himself/herself from movements that might be painful. Other tests such as assessing the balance, muscle strength and coordination are performed to ensure that back pain is not part of a serious underlying condition.
The doctor can utilize one or several imaging tests for further assessment of the back pain. An X-ray of the spine will reveal bones and can determine if there are fractures, displacements or other issues. A bone scan can determine if there is inflammation, fractures and tumors.
In some cases, a CT scan is also performed which provides a 3D image and allows the doctor to view parts that are not seen on X-rays. As for MRI, it is also useful since it reveals other tissues such as the nerve roots, spinal cord, disks and other soft tissues.
When diagnosing back pain among children, there are some laboratory tests requested by the doctor to aid in coming up with a diagnosis. The blood tests including CBC, C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate are affected if there is infection or inflammation.
Usual conditions that causes back pain among children
Muscle strain is often responsible for back pain in both children and adolescents. The pain responds to rest, exercise routine and anti-inflammatory medications. You can readily manage this condition by enrolling in a course on first aid today.
Stress fractures can also cause back pain and occur during the growth spurt during adolescence or during sports that involves repetitive twisting and hyperextension of the spine.
Among young children, infection in the disk space can cause back pain. This condition typically affects children between 1-5 years old but older children and even teenagers are also affected.