Majority of Adolescents Experience Low Back Pain

March 6, 2009

A study shows that 40% of adolescents experience low back pain at least once a month.

A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine shows that 40% of adolescents experience low back pain at least once a month. The pain though was found to be negligible in 90% of the cases. As the pain had no functional repercussions, the quality of life impact was found to be minimal.

Conducted by researchers in hospitals and research centers in Spain and Switzerland, the study collected data from 1,470 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 15 years old. Among the participants, 65% said they had experienced pain in the last month.

Interestingly, “It needs to be pointed out that the data from Barcelona is the same as that from the city of Freiburg, which gives an idea of the universal nature of our findings. Although both cities represent the Western world, they are two completely different contexts,” explained lead researcher Ferrán Pellisé, Spinal Unit, Vall d'Hebrón Hospital, Barcelona, Spain.

“The conclusion we reached is that isolated low back pain is very common among adolescents, but has little impact on their quality of life. Low back pain is different in an adolescent whose whole body hurts, in which case it does have an impact on quality of life. This situation, observed in 10% of participants, is more common in girls than boys,” he said.

“It is a huge risk [however] to cause social alarm just because low back pain might be so prevalent, since its real impact is low in 90% of cases. Therefore no restrictive measure would need to be taken in this population, only encourage them to keep leading a normal life and not ‘medicalise' a problem which is perhaps not that important. We would only have to treat the remaining 10%,” emphasized Pellisé.

The next step for scientists will be to determine whether this minimal pain during the adolescent years translates into more detrimental low back pain during adulthood.

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