Muscular pain in the neck, shoulders, and back plagues many American adults and is one of the leading causes of disability and missed work. But the number of teens with musculoskeletal pain has increased in recent years, too.
To find out more about the occurrence and causes of pain in teens, researchers from the Netherlands surveyed 3,485 12- to 16-year-olds from Amsterdam about how often they experienced pain in their arms, neck, shoulders, and low back. Teens also noted how much time they spent using the computer, how much time they spent exercising or playing sports, and how much time they spent in inactive pursuits, such as watching TV or playing video games. In addition, the teens reported whether they had symptoms of depression and whether they had experienced stress within the last week.
Neck and shoulder pain proved most common among teens — about 12% of teens complained of aching or pain in the neck and shoulders 4 or more days in the past month. About 8% of teens noted low back pain, and about 4% of teens reported having arm pain 4 or more days in the past month. In addition, girls were more likely to report neck and shoulder pain and low back pain, and rates of neck and shoulder pain were higher in teens who did not live with both parents.
The amount of time teens spent using the computer, watching TV or playing video games, or playing sports or exercising wasn't linked to arm, neck, shoulder, or back pain. However, teens who reported more symptoms of depression were more likely to experience neck/shoulder pain, low back pain, and arm pain. Also, stressed teens tended to experience more neck, shoulder, and low back pain.
What This Means to You. The results of this study indicate that stressed and depressed teens may be prone to pain in the neck, shoulders, back, and arms. Even though a direct link to pain was not proven by this study, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents limit their children's screen time (including TV and video and computer games) to no more than 1-2 hours a day. If your son or daughter complains of pain in the back, shoulders, neck, or arms, talk to your child's doctor. Some teens with unexplained or chronic pain may find relief through behavioral therapy to help them cope with stress and depression.
Source: A.C.M. Diepenmaat, MSC; M.F. van der Wal, PhD; H.C.W. de Vet, PhD; R. A. Hirasing, PhD; Pediatrics, February 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: March 2006