Does Your Child Complain of Back Pain? Core Weakness May be the Contributing Factor and PT Can Help!

By Mark Romano, PT, DPT, at The Physical Therapy & Wellness Institute


Do you find your child complaining of aches, pains or soreness in his/her back? The pain may come and go and is tolerable, but is generally uncomfortable?


It is well known that the average individual will suffer from back pain, particularly low back pain at one point in their lives. Many people believe older adults will be the main sufferers from back pain as they get weaker and more sedentary. However, back pain can originate earlier in life than you may have previously thought. It can be a sign of what’s to come if not taken care of correctly in the youth years.


According to a study done in 2013, adolescents (0-18 yrs. of age) have a 33% chance of developing low back pain, which can last throughout their lifetime. This same study reported that females have a higher likelihood of developing low back pain compared to males, regardless of age. Overall reported numbers on this subject vary and previous studies have shown that anywhere from 1.1 to 66% of adolescents are affected by low back pain. Other studies, such as that performed by Balague et al. in 2012, show that low back pain rates in teenagers are similar to that of adults. This same study also found that only a few teenagers reported being completely pain-free from any low back pain in the time leading up to their study.


So why is a generally active and healthy adolescent developing back pain? Well, back pain can be caused by several different factors, core weakness being a strong contributing factor.


Now, what is core weakness, or rather what is the core you may ask? Core muscles are described as abdominal muscles that provide stability to our trunk and low back. The primary stabilizing muscle is the transversus abdominis, and this muscle is helped out by the internal and external oblique muscles to maintain stability. These muscles are shown in the pictures below.


Weakness to these muscles can be the result of a sedentary lifestyle, such as not performing or participating in physical activity and poor posture. As a result of our youths’ current lifestyle with modern technology, kids are spending more and more time sitting hunched over in front of computers, iPhones, and televisions. Kids are no longer developing and maintaining their core stability through natural play activities. And researchers believe that core weakness can be caused by these lifestyle changes. A study performed in 2015 looked at potential risk factors for developing non-specific injury low back pain in adolescents. Their findings showed that tight hamstrings muscle group (muscles in the back of our thigh/leg), no participation in sports, and prolonged sitting time during entertainment activities, such as what was mentioned above is correlated with developing low back pain.


The above article stressed the importance of participating in some sort of physical activity. Specific physical activity does not have to be sport specific, it just has to be some sort of physical activity. Meaning, as long as kids spend more time outside, playing tag, or swimming with friends, their core muscles can develop and stay strong. So it is very important, now more than ever, that we motivate our youth to participate in some level of physical activity.


Research shows that as long as kids stay active their risk of developing low back pain decreases, most likely due to the development of appropriate core muscle strength. If your child is complaining of low back pain or discomfort, physical therapy can help. It is important to see a physical therapist sooner than later to teach your child how to engage their core muscles, to teach appropriate exercises to perform on a regular basis and to educate regarding proper posture and participation in physical activities. You can find and schedule a physical therapy appointment through the betterPT website and mobile app without a doctor prescription.


Hopefully with the spring and summer months approaching we can urge our youth to get outside and perform more physical activity. In the meantime, be proactive about taking them to physical therapy so that they can develop appropriate core strength and combat back pain or discomfort.


You can find Mark Romano and The Physical Therapy & Wellness Institute through the betterPT website and betterPT mobile app in addition to hundreds of other quality clinics in your area!




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