Child Orthopedics

Frequently Asked Questions

Our 11-year old daughter has been complaining of back pain off and on now for months. The doctor says it's just growing pain but she hasn't grown an inch and I'm getting worried. Is there some kind of test that could be or should be done at this point?

In the past back pain in children was considered a major red flag. Doctors were concerned about infection or malignancy. Those are real possibilities but don't occur very often.

In fact, it turns out children and adolescents up to age 18 have back pain just like adults. When the symptoms are linked to soft tissue or postural structures, it's called mechanicalback pain or back ache.

If symptoms persist then it's time to take a second look. Blood tests, X-rays, and possibly a bone scan may be in order. Blood tests can give an indication of infection or inflammation in the body. X-rays may show changes in the bone. Bone scans don't always pick up primary bone tumors but they are very good at showing metastases to the bones from some other location.

Make a follow-up appointment with the doctor for your daughter. Express your concerns and ask for a re-evaluation of her problem.

Ignacio Sanpera Jr, FCS (SA) Ortho, PhD, and José L. Beguiristain-Gurpide, MD. Bone Scan as a Screening Tool in Children and Adolescents with Back Pain. In Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. March/April 2006. Vol. 26. No. 2. Pp. 221-225.

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