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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Backache (for Teenagers)


  • You have back pain.
  • Usually the middle or lower part of the back is involved.
  • The pain is worsened by bending.
  • The muscles on either side of your spine are tender or in spasm.
  • Mainly occurs in adolescents.


Backaches are usually symptomatic of a strain of some of the 200 muscles in the back that allow us to stand upright. Often the triggering event is carrying something too heavy, lifting from an awkward position, or overexertion of back muscles (for example, from digging).


The pain and discomfort are usually gone in 1 to 2 weeks. Recurrences are common.


  1. Pain-relief medicines

    Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen four times a day. Continue this until 24 hours have passed without any pain. This medicine is the most important part of the therapy because back pain causes muscle spasm and these medicines can greatly reduce both the spasm and the pain.

  2. Local heat

    A heating pad or hot water bottle applied to the most painful area for 20 minutes helps to relieve muscle spasm. Do this whenever the pain flares up.

  3. Sleeping position

    The most comfortable sleeping position is usually on your side. The mattress should be firm or reinforced with a board.

  4. Activity

    Avoid lifting, jumping, horseback riding, motorcycle riding, and exercise until you are completely well. Complete bed rest is unnecessary.

  5. Prevention

    The only way to prevent future backaches is to keep your back muscles in excellent physical condition. This will require 5 minutes of back and abdominal exercises every day. Helpful strengthening exercises are sit-ups, 6- inch leg raises, flattening your back against the floor, and tucks of your leg to the chest. Also do stretching exercises. Don't do strengthening exercises when you have active back pain, but continue doing the stretching exercises. Remember to lift objects with your leg muscles and not by bending or twisting your back.


  • The pain becomes very severe AND persists more than 2 hours after taking a pain medicine.
  • You can't walk.
  • You start feeling very sick.


  • The pain is no better after 3 days of treatment.
  • The pain is still present after 2 weeks.
  • You have other concerns or questions.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems