Children are always going to be active, and with activity comes injury. Spine injuries during adolescence can be even more problematic than in adulthood because our vertebrae and spinal structures are still developing and growing. Today, we’re going to look at some of the common causes of back injuries in children, and we’re going to share how these injuries are diagnosed and treated.
Causes of Childhood Spine Pain
Any parent has at least a few weird stories of how their child injured themselves, but hopefully the damage was contained to a scraped knee or a bruised elbow. Back injuries are a little tougher to come by in your youth, but they still occur more frequently that we would like. Although there are millions of ways a child could injure their back, they typically tend to fall under one of these three categories.
1. Genetics – There are a number of different spinal conditions that can arise during childhood that are simply unpreventable because they are genetic based or form out of no fault of the child, like a tumor. Conditions like spina bifida, ankylosing spondylitis and spinal tumors can all form during a child’s early years.
2. Collision Trauma – Another common cause of spinal injuries in children is collision trauma. This is most common during car accidents, but it can also happen when kids are introduced to sports. Whether it’s flag football, soccer or T-ball – even if contact isn’t a part of the game – kids are going to run into one another, and this can lead to vertebral fractures, shifted discs or pinched spinal nerves.
3. Fall Trauma – Now, some might consider fall trauma the same as collision trauma since the child is colliding with the ground, and there’s some merit to that, but falls are so common in small children that it deserves its own category. Whether they miss a step on the stairs, fall out of their high chair, slip on the monkey bars or just lose balance and tip over, kids fall a lot, and when it’s at an awkward angle or from a great height, spinal injuries similar to those experienced in a collision trauma can occur.
Diagnosing and Treatment
If you suspect your infant is experiencing back pain, if you think your child may have hurt their back during an accident, or if they flat out tell you that their back is hurting, the best thing you can do is to bring them into their primary care doctor or a back specialist. If you think it’s serious, a specialist may be your best bet, as they are specifically trained to catch potential issues and formulate a care plan.
Once you bring your child in, your doctor will typically begin by asking the child or the parent about the incident or what symptoms they are experiencing. They’ll also review medical history and likely conduct a physical exam to see which areas hurt or if there are any noticeable problems as viewed in plain sight. A specialist will have a pretty good idea of what’s going on, but they’ll probably confirm their suspicion with the assistance of an X-ray, or if more information is needed, an MRI or CT scan.
Imaging tests will reveal the extent of the problem, and it will also help a physician start to formulate a treatment plan. Treatment is based on the specific nature of your child’s injury, but oftentimes back injuries can be treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and light exercise. If surgery is required, a skilled spinal specialist like Dr. Chang can walk you through all your options, explain any risks and help put your mind at ease before surgery.
For more information on pediatric spinal injuries, reach out to Dr. Chang today!