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A to Z Symptom: Back Pain

May also be called: Lumbago

Back pain is common, even in kids and teens. It can happen anywhere along the back, and might be a dull ache, a crampy feeling, or a sharp, shooting pain.

What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain often is caused by muscle strain or sprain, often from an injury. Another cause is wearing a heavy backpack — this can affect posture and cause bones of the spine to press on or pinch the nerves branching out from the spinal cord.

Stiffness and pain in the lower back can be caused by things like lifting heavy objects or sitting in one position for too long.

Sometimes back pain is the result of a fracture (break) in a spine bone (vertebra) or when vertebrae slip into each other. This is rare but can happen in kids and teens who do back-bending activities, like gymnastics.

How Is Back Pain Treated?

Back pain often goes away on its own. Minor pain can be eased by applying a heating pad or warm pack to the area or with gentle massage. 

If an overloaded backpack is to blame, reduce back strain by:

  • choosing a backpack with two wide shoulder straps and a padded back
  • making sure kids don’t carry a backpack that heavier than 10%–15% of their body weight

Lower back stiffness usually will go away on its own within a few days or weeks. Until then, it can be managed by staying active and taking short-term medicines (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) to control pain.

But if back pain lasts or is happens along with other symptoms, call your doctor.

What Else Should I Know About Back Pain?

Many cases of back pain can be prevented by stretching before and after physical activities, getting regular low-impact exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding heavy lifting.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.


Reviewed by: KidsHealth Medical Experts

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