The Consequences of Unaddressed Back Pain in Teens

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: October 23, 2018

Teen Back Pain

Teens face a lot of pressure in their everyday lives. From peer pressure to academic pressure, not to mention other social, familial or athletic pressures, all of this stress can lead teens to make some poor choices. Another potential stressor in a young adult’s life is their health.

We often think that teens and young adults are in the best shape of their life because years of stress hasn’t yet taken a toll on their bodies, but that’s not a good assumption to hold. A large percentage of teens deal with acute or chronic back pain, and a recent study took a look at the relationship between spine pain and their risk of making poor lifestyle choices. What they found may surprise you.

Back Pain and Risky Behaviors

According to research published in the Journal of Public Health, teens who have back pain are more likely to participate in some risky or unhealthy behaviors. After comparing groups of 14-15 year olds, researchers found that those teens who experienced back pain more than once a week were:

  • 2-3 times more likely to have drunk alcohol or smoked tobacco in the past month than those who rarely or never had back pain.
  • As a whole, teens with regular back pain were more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and report certain mental health conditions like anxiety and depression compared to teens without spine pain.
  • Interestingly, researchers say the link between back pain and unhealthy habits continued into adulthood, as they suggest that earlier exposure to certain toxic substances may increase the risk for substance abuse or mental health problems later in life.

The study certainly has its limitations, as it can only prove correlation, not causation. For example, it’s uncertain if back pain makes someone more likely to drink, or if individuals who engage in unhealthy behaviors are more likely to develop back pain. It could be a two-way street, but we can’t sit here and say one certainly causes the other.

That said, the results are important for a number of reasons. For starters, it suggests that it is extremely important for both parents and teens to ensure back pain is dealt with in an appropriate and proactive manner because there are risks for ignoring the issue. Also, doctors should consider looking beyond the physical health and into the mental health of teens and young adults who deal with acute or chronic back pain. Pain is more than just a physical manifestation, and it can leave a teen susceptible to anxiety or depression at a crucial stage of brain development.

Back Pain Doctor

If you or someone you know is dealing with back pain, encourage them to visit a doctor and have it diagnosed and treated. There may be more unintended consequences of ignoring the problem than you think. For more information, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s clinic today.

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