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Back Pain in Older Children and Adolescents


Back pain may occur in your child's upper, middle, or lower back. Back pain may be caused by problems with the muscles or bones in his back. These problems include muscle strain, herniated disc, or a stress fracture. It can also be caused by other conditions, such as swelling or an infection between the discs in his spine. The cause of your child's back pain may be unknown.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has trouble walking.
  • Your child has abdominal pain.
  • Your child has severe back pain that does not get better with medicine.
  • Your child has trouble urinating or having a bowel movement.
  • Your child has a fever, decreased appetite, or weight loss.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child's back pain gets worse or continues for longer than 3 weeks.
  • Your child has back pain that is worse at night or wakes him from sleep.
  • You notice a change in the shape of your child's spine.
  • Your child has pain that radiates down one or both of his legs.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches your child exercises to help improve movement and strength, improve posture, and to decrease pain.

Manage your child's back pain:

  • Limit activities that cause pain. Your child may need to limit activities, such as sports, until his back pain gets better.
  • Apply ice for back pain caused by muscle strain for the first 3 days. Apply ice on your child's back for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Apply heat for muscle strain after 3 days. Apply heat on your child's back for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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