September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Is there a connection between extra weight and back childhood back pain?

Chronic back pain in children? It reads like a typo—the idea that kids might have spinal problems. Only adults have chronic back pain, right?

Actually, our experience at Eastside Chiropractic Center is more varied. And because September is Childhood Obesity Month, now is a good time to reexamine a 2009 study led by Dr. Judah Burns on behalf of Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City. The research compiled the MRI findings of 188 children between the ages of 12 and 20. All the respondents suffered from back pain, and 56% of them showed they had some lumbar spine disorders.

Adding BMI to pediatric research reveals orthopedic insight

Then the researchers took an extra step. They measured the body mass index (BMI) of 106 of the participants. And it turned out that 54 of those children with pain had BMIs that were higher than 75% of other children. And the MRIs of 37 of those high-BMI kid revealed signs of lumbar spine disorders.

“This is the first study to show an association between an increased body mass index and disc abnormalities in children,” said Dr. Burns, the study’s lead author and a fellow in diagnostic neuroradiology at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.

Conversely, the children whose weight was in the “healthy range” had normal MRI results. Although childhood obesity has long been a concern as a contributor to type 2 diabetes, this study indicated that overweight adolescents might be susceptible to spinal disorders.

Children’s vertebrae respond poorly to added weight

It’s no secret that the added weight of obesity can cause discs to degenerate more quickly in adults. This study showed, however, that the same result can occur in overweight children. Meaning that pre-pubescents and adolescents with high BMIs are in danger of stressing their spines prematurely.

Although muscle strain and sport injuries are typically the most common cause of childhood back pain, Dr. Burns believes it’s time to rethink our assumptions.

“In children, back pain is usually attributed to muscle spasm or sprain,” Dr. Burns said. “It is assumed that disc disease does not occur in children, but my experience says otherwise.”

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. If you’re concerned about your child’s back pain (or your own) contact Eastside Chiropractic Center using the link below to schedule an appointment.

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