Child Orthopedics

Frequently Asked Questions

My 15-year old son usually sleeps like the dead. But lately he's been getting up at night complaining of back pain. He's not involved in sports and probably spends too much time in front of the TV. Could this be the cause of the problem?

Researchers have not been able to pinpoint the cause of back pain in many children and adolescents. Heavy back packs, too much time on the couch or chair watching television, and sports have all been blamed. There's no proof yet that any of these is the problem.

Night pain is often considered a red flag for something more serious. But, in fact, a closer look may help explain what's going on. Some simple things may be at fault. Take a look at the bed. Is the mattress old and broken down or does it give firm (but not too much) support?

Check the pillow as well. And try having your child sleep with a firm pillow between his lower legs. It should be turned lengthwise to support both the knees and the ankles. The pillow will probably fall out at some point but even some use can help. Keeping the legs in good alignment takes pressure off the spine by keeping the hips or pelvis level and without rotation.

Is your son wearing loose-fitting clothes to bed at night? Children sleeping in clothes with a tight fit or tight waistband can experience night pain and not realize what's causing it.

If taking some simple measures of this type doesn't help, then see a doctor. Medical tests may be able to identify an underlying physical 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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