It is a long-held but false belief that lumbar pain is limited to adults. Some hold onto back pain like a right, claiming that teens haven’t lived long enough or done enough to feel such pain, but the reverse is true. Low back pain plagues many between the ages of 12 and 18 for many different reasons. One solution is adolescent chiropractic care.
Taking Care of Our Teens
Low back pain is a pervasive problem across the world, affecting approximately 40-80% of the population at some point in their lives. Disability related to lumbar pain is on the rise, increasing 42% over the past 20 years, making it the leading cause of disability globally. Cases of chronic low back pain in adolescents increase every year, and rates reach adult levels by the late teen years.
With the opioid epidemic in the United States, the urgency to identify effective and safe nonpharmacological treatments for low back pain is paramount for all ages, especially teenagers. Currently, spinal manipulation is the most common noninvasive (drug- and surgery-free) treatment prescribed by providers, and research indicates that incorporating adolescent chiropractic care into other exercise therapy treatments is effective in managing adolescent low back pain.
Causes of Low Back Pain in Adolescents
Low back pain in teens can be caused by a number of factors. These include predispositions like genetics and obesity, but lifestyle choices such as lugging around heavy backpacks, smoking, and mismanagement of stress can also contribute. The most common cause of back pain in adolescents is sports participation. If a teenager’s back pain is the result of an injury, it will need to be evaluated by their physician first, who may prescribe a form of chiropractic therapy. Chiropractic treatment while young serves as an effective preventative as well as pain-management strategy.
The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain
A study conducted in 2018 indicated that exercise therapy combined with adolescent chiropractic care was an effective treatment for chronic adolescent low back pain. At the time, 20-40% of U.S. adolescents suffering from low back pain were prescribed opioids for its management. In the study, 185 teens with chronic low back pain, aged 12-18 years, received either 12 weeks of spinal manipulative therapy combined with exercise therapy or exercise therapy alone.
While both groups reported approximately 80% reduction in opioid use after the treatment, the group that incorporated spinal manipulation into treatments saw more significant progress, especially from six months to a year. Pain severity over the long term also improved more significantly in the group that included chiropractic care in their treatment regime. The authors of the study recommended “a supervised exercise program with the addition of spinal manipulation” as the best care for teenagers suffering from chronic low back pain.
What Does Adolescent Chiropractic Care Entail?
Adolescent chiropractic treatment is almost identical to the treatments administered to adults. Spinal manipulation utilizes high velocity, low amplitude thrusts or low velocity mobilization maneuvers of variable amplitudes. These are applied to the lumbar vertebral or sacroiliac joints to restore mobility and decrease pain. Though the process may leave a teen feeling sore after the first few sessions, no other adverse effects follow, making chiropractic treatment safer than pharmacological means.
The Benefits of Chiropractic for Teens
The benefits of adolescent chiropractic care are many, and the most apparent is the easing of low back pain. This mitigation frees teenagers to engage in the many activities on their social, academic, and extracurricular calendars. If you have teens who are always on the go, regular chiropractic care will stave off pain that keeps them from doing what they love. It also has tremendous dividends in the healing of injuries, sports-related or otherwise.
Adolescent chiropractic is also preventative. Correct alignment can lead to improved athletic performance and minimized injury risk because muscles are optimized. Back muscles especially are strengthened through consistent treatment. This can also lead to better posture, limiting posture-related back pain down the line.
It is best to start chiropractic treatment early. This will mitigate pain as it arises, and it can prevent misalignment as a teenager grows. Spinal manipulation and spinal decompression can pull misaligned vertebrae off of the spinal cord and relieve the growing pains that are so common to teenagers. A properly aligned spine equates to more available energy, so even if your teen does not suffer from back pain, adolescent chiropractic care is ideal for boosting teens’ growth and development, improving their mental wellness, and promoting their long-term health.