ALERT: IF YOUR CHILD HAS BEEN INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT AND IS COMPLAINING OF BACK PAIN, OR YOU SUSPECT A MEDICAL EMERGENCY CALL YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBER IMMEDIATELY!!
“Back pain is common in adults, and the majority of the time, it’s nothing serious. However, back pain in children is something doctors and parents should be concerned about,” says Vesna Martich Kriss, M.D., Associate Professor of Radiology and Pediatrics at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine (2017).
If your child is complaining of back pain, your instinct might be to ignore them, thinking, “this too shall pass.” After all, they aren’t as old as us with their young, flexible bodies. What do they know about back pain?
It is essential, however, that a child complaining of back pain not be ignored.
More Advanced Imaging May be Necessary
A preliminary x-ray may not reveal a problem due to the way the images turn out. Even so, a child’s complaint of back pain could be severe. One-third of the time there is back pain in children, there could be something dangerous that a simple x-ray isn’t capable of showing.
Things to be on the lookout for are injuries, infections, or in rarer cases, a tumor. Ask your child’s doctor about more detailed imaging to diagnose what is causing your child’s back pain accurately.
In the U.K. a study was performed that demonstrated that it took a SPECT bone scan to detect lesions that x-rays did not (Franklin, 2017). I’m not a child, but my spine x-ray came back perfectly normal while an MRI scan is what revealed my issues.
Osteomyelitis is one of the more severe infections that need treatment right away — left untreated results in permanent damage to his or her bones. This menacing infection interferes with growth and destroys bone. Luckily it’s not common, but that may mean that the child’s doctor is not on the lookout for it. Best to rule it out to avoid devastating consequences.
For more information about osteomyelitis in children, check out this article from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: Osteomyelitis in Children
Symptoms of Danger
Back pain in children – especially after sporting or some other physical activity – needs professional medical attention right away.
Dr. Kriss (2017) stressed that children who are into sports or gymnastics are particularly susceptible to injuries due to the stress put on their immature bones.
Just like adults, the following symptoms, along with back pain often indicate serious problems:
• Pain that travels down the legs
• Difficulty walking
• Pain that interferes with sleeping and other normal activities
• Numbness or weakness anywhere, especially arms and legs
• Loss of control of peeing or pooping
• Loss of appetite or weight loss
• Accident preceding pain
For adults, back-pain is often the result of getting older and less flexible. However, back pain in children can be an indication of severe issues such as tumors, infections such as osteomyelitis, growth abnormalities, or perhaps severe injury.
It should go without saying that identifying the cause of back pain in children is essential to seek the proper treatment quickly. Early treatment is vital to achieving the best outcome possible. It’s not enough to give your child a few days rest as any delay may lead to complications and permanent damage.
Do not let your child’s doctor brush off the pain as there can be a serious underlying condition or disorder. You might find it necessary to advocate for your child until you get proper imaging, diagnosis, and treatment.
Franklin, V. (2017, February 03). Don’t Ignore a Child Complaining of Back Pain (H. L. Shufflebarger M.D., Ed.). Retrieved March 07, 2019, from https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/back-pain/dont-ignore-child-complaining-back-pain