The University of Newcastle, Australia

Managing back pain in children

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

New research shows that children and teenagers are just as likely as adults to report back pain.

Managing back pain in children

"Around two in five kids report significant back pain, at least monthly," HMRI Research Fellow Dr Chris Williams says.  "Unfortunately, we know little about how to treat back pain in children and adolescents.

"The immediate thought is there must be something seriously wrong for a child to have back pain. By that I mean a spinal fracture, infection or a serious underlying disease, but fortunately that doesn't seem to be the case."

Dr Williams' research is focusing on understanding the factors contributing to back pain in kids and developing effective treatments.

"The earlier the onset of back pain in a person's life, the more likely they are to develop persistent pain in the future and then other chronic health problems associated with substance use, weight gain, depression, cardiovascular disease and so on," he adds.

"If we can get a better understanding about back pain in kids we have a better chance of preventing that person developing persistent pain and subsequent poor health."

Work conducted by the research team has found that there is very little research about strategies to treat back pain in children and teenagers.

Dr Williams, a physiotherapist, is teaming up with researchers from Neuroscience Research Australia in
Sydney, The George Institute and University of South Australia to develop new treatment strategies.

"Because treating a child can be very different to treating an adult, we can't rely solely on research about back pain treatments in adults to inform treatment for kids," he said. "So we are developing some fun tools to educate parents and kids and help them manage pain when they experience it."

The new approach is based on principles from neuroscience and education. It will be tested in the Hunter during 2015.