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New Study Shows High Prevalence of Daily Multi-Site Pain In Adolescents

The prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in the adult population is well documented, along with the billions of dollars per years in healthcare costs and lost time at work associated with these conditions. The chiropractors and sports medicine team at Back In Motion in Beaverton are intimately aware of this fact, and have devoted our careers to helping this population recover from injury and pursue an active lifestyle. But what of our younger population?

There is often an assumption that the younger population is immune to chronic musculoskeletal pain in the absence of trauma or other medical condition. Remembering back to our time as teenagers there was a feeling of invulnerability and any aches and pains were quickly resolved with rest or just ignored as growing pains. However, with the growing demands of adolescent life, including increased time and specificity in sports and increased hours spent on coursework and in front of the ever-present electronic devices, what is the health impact?

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark designed a study specifically to investigate the prevalence of daily, multi-site pain among the adolescent population aged 12-19 years. The study design was a population-based study amount 4,000 adolescents aged 12-19 years in Denmark. Information for the study was gathered via an online questionnaire administered during physical education classes. The respondents were asked to identify body regions associated with pain, frequency of pain, sports participation, and health-related quality of life (a standardized european health outcomes assessment questionnaire). 

73.7% of the students in the study fully completed the questionnaires (62% females). 33.3% reported multi-site pain (pain in greater than one region), while 19.8% reported almost daily pain. 61% reported pain in at least one region at the time of the study - knee and back pain were the most common. Female gender and a high level of sports participation were associated with increased odds of having almost daily pain or multi-site pain, while higher quality of life questionnaire scores were associated with decreased odds of having daily or multi-site pain. 

While not surprising that the adolescent population is not immune to musculoskeletal pain, the high percentage of respondents experiencing either pain at the time of the study (2 out of 3) and multi-site pain (1 out of 3) is somewhat shocking, especially given the relatively low number of adolescent patients treated in our clinic compared to the adult population. A follow-up study to investigate what percentage of the adolescent chronic pain population receiving some form of therapy would be very interesting. I can say from experience in the clinic and working with multiple youth sports teams that there is a general aversion to seeking care and often times those who seek care have poor follow-up and compliance with home care. Perhaps in our busy lives both adolescents and their parents miss the cues that care is needed, or perhaps do not know that there is help for them besides rest or ibuprofen. Whatever the cause, it is clear from this study that there is a great need for musculoskeletal care in the adolescent population, particularly among those active in sports. 

 

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