Lower Back Pain in Kids: What Can Be Done? - Cincinnati Children's Blog

Lower Back Pain in Kids: What Can Be Done?

Almost one-third of athletes will have back pain at some point while playing sports. It is one of the most common ailments we see in Orthopedic and Sports Medicine clinics and on the sideline. But not all children who have back pain are injured on the playing field. It is important to first understand the cause of the pain and then treat it accordingly to help a child find relief.

How do I know if my child should see a specialist?

For many years back pain was considered something only adults dealt with. Today we know that’s not the case. Kids have back pain and it’s caused by anything from sitting too much to carrying a heavy backpack to playing sports.

When a child’s back pain is severe, limits what they can do, or persists for more than a few weeks, it’s time to have them checked by a doctor. 

First Steps of Therapy

Once your child has been checked by a physician the next step is often a physical therapy evaluation.

There are typically two kinds of children who are susceptible to low back pain:

  • The very active child who goes from practice to practice without giving their body time to heal between seasons.
  • The less active child who has poor posture and sometimes has problems with obesity.

The treatments for these children look different because of their typical level of activity. But the end goal is the same.

Motivation

Before we get started with therapy it’s important to find out from the child why they want to get better. Therapy is not easy, and it takes effort and motivation on the part of the child to strengthen the necessary muscles that will hopefully alleviate the pain they’ve been feeling.

The more motivated a child is to get better, the more success they’ll have with therapy.

Treatment

Once we have found what motivates the child to get better we have her or him complete a series of tests and measurements of their muscle performance.

With back pain it’s common to find weakness in muscles around the child’s core. The tests we perform help us determine how strong the muscles are around the trunk, or midsection, of the child’s body.

Therapy

Our therapy is very much an exercise-based program. You won’t see a lot of laying on hot pads or the use of electric stimulation.

Therapy at Cincinnati children’s is an active therapy session designed to improve the health and strength of the muscles that support a child’s back and we achieve that goal through a series of exercises as seen below:

If your child is experiencing back pain, we are available to help.

To make an appointment with a physician, please contact our Orthopedic Division or Division of Sports Medicine at 513-636-4366.

If you have questions about physical therapy, contact us: OTPTTRACKSpine@cchmc.org

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Michael Allen, PT

About the Author: Michael Allen, PT

Michael is a Clinical Manager of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy in the Division of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy at Cincinnati Children's. He sees patients at the Liberty Campus location with a special interest in treating low back pain in young athletes. He serves as team leader of the division’s Spine Program, which works to translate the latest back pain research discoveries to clinical practice.

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