Healthy Living

Pay attention to a child’s back pain

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By Joseph Kato

Posted  Monday, December 9  2013 at  00:00

In Summary

Back pain is common in children, particularly during adolescence. It can be caused by several factors, including poor posture, inappropriate forms of exercise and carrying heavy schoolbags. When left untreated, such pains can become chronic in adulthood.


At 12, Thomas Kazungu suffers from back pain. The Senior One student says he has had the problem for the past two years although the pain does not happen every day.

“I woke up one morning feeling a slight back pain. But after three days, the pain intensified and I cried the whole night. In the morning, my uncle took me to the clinic for treatment,” Kazungu says.

At the clinic, Kazungu was given medication that he would take for two weeks.

“Once I started swallowing the medicine, the pain disappeared but I continued with my dose, he explains.

After nine months, the pain returned. Kazungu went back to the hospital where he was given painkillers after the cause of the pain could not be established.

He was also advised to stop carrying heavy stuff including books on his back. Kazungu says the painkillers have helped him, although he says occasionally he experiences minor spinal discomfort.

Betty Namawanda, a Primary Four pupil also suffers from back pain. In her case, the pain happens when she engages in physical activities or sits in the same position for long hours.

Dr Britah Baryomunsi, a general practitioner at Kairos Medical Centre in Bukasa, a Kampala suburb says cases of back pain in children are very rare, although such disorders can be caused by factors such as physical injuries, congenital abnormalities, or nutrient deficiencies.

Physical injuries
Dr Baryomunsi notes that physical injuries can result from poor sleeping posture or accidents. She adds that children who carry heavy bags containing books, water bottles or lunch boxes every day are more likely to experience chronic backache.

“The weight on the back affects their movement because of bending, which triggers spinal discomfort,” explains Dr Baryomunsi. She further notes corporal punishments that inflict pain on children can also lead to back pain.

Juvenile arthritis
Dr Baryomunsi says a condition called juvenile arthritis in children can also trigger back pain. This is an inflammation of the bones around the back. It can affect structures of the body such as muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones.

Diseases such as sickle cell also cause back pain in children.

Dr Baryomunsi says it is essential for parents to seek medical care as soon their children complain of back discomfort, as this will help to establish the underlying cause. She also warns against self-medication.

“If parents delay to take their children for thorough medical checkup, the back pain may become chronic,” explains Dr Baryomunsi. In chronic cases, the child experiences difficulty in sneezing, coughing, standing, or even sleeping.