Attitude makes a difference for teens with back pain

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Teens with back pain may be more likely to miss school or work when they hold negative beliefs about their pain.  Having a positive attitude has been shown to improve the outcome of back pain in adults, and a new study suggests that association may also be true in adolescence.

As many as 14-26% of children suffer from low-back pain. By the time children reach late adolescence, the prevalence of back pain reaches adult levels. To better understand this cohort of back-pain patients, researchers questioned 1,126 teens about their experience and beliefs surrounding back pain.

When back pain interfered with teens’ normal activities, work, school, and physical activities, they tended to have more negative beliefs, regardless of gender or mental health. Teens with positive beliefs were less likely to have back pain that hindered their participation in normal activities. Positive beliefs were also associated with lower BMI levels, higher family income, better primary care, and female gender.

Researchers cautioned that a causal link cannot be established yet since this was just an observational study. It does however provide a window into adolescent back pain, and suggests that teens could benefit from interventions to improve back-pain beliefs.


Jones GT, Macfarlane GJ. Epidemiology of low back pain in children and adolescents. BMJ 2005; 90: 312-316.

Smith AJ, et al. Back Pain Beliefs Are Related to the Impact of Low Back Pain in 17-Year-Olds. Physical Therapy 2012; 92(7): doi: 10.2522/ptj.20110396.

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