Musculoskeletal Pain in Children and Adolescents
Written by Editor   
Monday, June 06, 2016 12:00 AM

Research by the World Health Organisation has brought the enormous global burden of musculoskeletal (MSK) pain into focus. Low back pain (LBP), neck pain and other musculoskeletal disorders were ranked numbers 1, 4 and 10 respectively, among all health conditions for years lived with disability. These conditions were also identified as the main drivers of the increase in years lived with disability over the past 20 years. Although the epidemiology, burden and treatment of MSK pain in adults has been the subject of considerable research efforts, the same is not true for children. The dearth of clinical research relevant to children and adolescents has been highlighted by several authors. The purpose of this paper is to outline the current state of understanding with respect to MSK pain in people under the age of 18 years.

Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain in children and adolescents is responsible for substantial personal impacts and societal costs, but it has not been intensively or systematically researched. This means our understanding of these conditions is limited, and healthcare professionals have little empirical evidence to underpin their clinical practice. In this article we summarise the state of the evidence concerning MSK pain in children and adolescents, and offer suggestions for future research.

Rates of self-reported MSK pain in adolescents are similar to those in adult populations and they are typically higher in teenage girls than boys. Epidemiological research has identified conditions such as back and neck pain as major causes of disability in adolescents, and in up to a quarter of cases there are impacts on school or physical activities. A range of physical, psychological and social factors have been shown to be associated with MSK pain report, but the strength and direction of these relationships are unclear. There are few validated instruments available to quantify the nature and severity of MSK pain in children, but some show promise. Several national surveys have shown that adolescents with MSK pain commonly seek care and use medications for their condition. Some studies have revealed a link between MSK pain in adolescents and chronic pain in adults.

The study concludes that musculoskeletal pain conditions are often recurrent in nature, occurring throughout the life-course. Attempts to understand these conditions at a time close to their initial onset may offer a better chance of developing effective prevention and treatment strategies.