Though the majority of spinal problems appear between the ages of 35 and 55, wrought by natural processes associated with aging, you don’t have to be an adult to have back problems. Back pain can also affect adolescents and even children. As many as half of all young people will have experienced back pain by age 20. It may be a sharp and shooting pain, or a burning or aching. It may be felt anywhere in the back. These are the same symptoms adults experience, but the causes of adolescent back pain are usually different than those that afflict their elders. That said, benign musculoskeletal diseases and trauma are responsible for most cases of back pain in adolescents just as they are for adults. Any strenuous or straining activity – sports or play, carrying a heavy backpack, or falling – can sprain muscles in the back and cause pain. Such strains and trauma account for around 50 percent of the younger patients seen in hospital emergency rooms suffering from back pain.
Fortunately, most cases of adolescent back pain resolve on their own. In fact, the exact cause of the back pain is never identified in at least half the adolescents seeking treatment. However, adolescents can exhibit serious spinal conditions capable of causing long term problems. These include stress fracture of the spine, known as spondylolysis, spondylolisthesis, which is forward slippage of one vertebra on another, and lumbar disc herniations. Infections, inflammatory diseases, and tumors can also cause back pain in children and adolescents, as can other congenital or acquired conditions. As in adults, spinal decompression surgery can relieve pressure on pinched nerves and the concomitant pain and restricted mobility these conditions can cause. A TOPS™ System implant can be used following decompression spine surgery, rather than the spinal fusion procedure typically performed. Whereas spine fusion surgery eliminates the independent movement of fused vertebrae, the TOPS System preserves the full range of flexion and rotational motion of each individual vertebra. And that’s welcome news for spine decompression patients.