Height and Weight Affect Prevalence of Teen Back Pain

It seems that back pain has become a problem that begins far earlier in life than it used to, for far too many young people. Studies show that around 12% of teens have some degree of pain in their low backs.

Scientists have also conducted research linking patient body mass index (BMI) to low-back pain. They have found that obese patients do not recover as effectively from back pain as those who are not obese.

Among the adolescent population, evidence linking obesity to low-back pain has been lacking. To remedy this, researchers recently examined the prevalence of low-back pain in teens, and analyzed how BMI and height influenced the likelihood of adolescent back pain.

For the study, researchers used data from nearly 830,000 medical examinations conducted by the military for mandatory recruitment screenings over more than 20 years' time. Among these, the severity of those with low-back pain was determined by attached disability clauses, the military's official way of setting health-related limitations on new recruits. Among the records of those with low-back pain disability clauses, researchers categorized the young men and women as having low-back pain alone or low-back pain with other evidence that corroborated the claim of back pain.

For low-back pain alone, the study found that 5.2% of males and 2.7% of females complained about pain. For both genders, the prevalence dropped to 0.2% when looking for patients who had objective back-pain evidence.

Higher BMI was significantly associated with low-back pain in both genders. Being overweight or obese greatly increased the chance for low-back pain.

Height was also linked to low-back pain in both sexes. The tallest teens were at greater risk of suffering from back pain than the shortest teens.

Chiropractors help teen patients, whether they are struggling with their weight, battling low-back pain, or both.


Hershkovich O, Friedlander A, et al. Associations of body mass index and body height with low back pain in 829,791 adolescents. American Journal of Epidemiology 2013 May 19. [Epub ahead of print].