Overweight children may develop back pain and spinal abnormalities

Dec 01, 2009

Being overweight as a child could lead to early degeneration in the spine, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"This is the first study to show an association between increased (BMI) and disc abnormalities in children," said the study's lead author, Judah G. Burns, M.D., fellow in diagnostic neuroradiology at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City.

In this retrospective study, Dr. Burns and colleagues reviewed MR images of the spines of 188 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 20 who complained of back pain and were imaged at the hospital over a four-year period. Trauma and other conditions that would predispose children to back pain were eliminated from the study.

The images revealed that 98 (52.1 percent) of the patients had some abnormality in the lower, or lumbar, . Most of those abnormalities occurred within the discs, which are sponge-like cushions in between the bones of the spine. Disc disease occurs when a bulging or ruptured disc presses on nerves, causing pain or weakness.

"In children, back pain is usually attributed to muscle spasm or sprain," Dr. Burns said. "It is assumed that disc disease does not occur in children, but my experience says otherwise."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 percent of U.S. children (age 6 - 11) and 18 percent of U.S. adolescents (age 12 -19) are overweight. BMI, a mathematical ratio of body weight and height, is a widely used measurement for obesity. Lower BMI is associated with being or a healthy body size; higher BMI scores are associated with being overweight or obese. Children above the 85th percentile are generally classified as overweight or at risk of being overweight.

The researchers were able to determine an age-adjusted BMI for 106 of the total 188 patients. Fifty-four had BMI greater than the 75th percentile for age. Thirty-seven (68.5 percent) of these children showed abnormal findings on their spine MRI. Fifty-two patients fell into the lowest three quartiles. Only 18 (34.6 percent) of the at or below a healthy weight had an abnormal MRI of the spine.

"We observed a trend toward increased spine abnormality with higher BMI," Dr. Burns said. "These results demonstrate a strong relationship between increased BMI in the pediatric population and the incidence of lumbar disc disease."

According to Dr. Burns, data revealed in the study could signal a significant public health problem given the health costs of back pain in the U.S.

"Back causes significant morbidity in adults, affecting quality of life and the ability to be productive," he said.

Source: Radiological Society of North America (news : web)

Explore further: Study: Extra income boosts health of elderly in poor countries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Identifying Risk for Obesity in Early Childhood

Sep 05, 2006

A new research study of children’s growth, published in the September issue of Pediatrics, can help parents and pediatricians determine the risk that a child will be overweight at age 12 by examining the child’s earlie ...

Can't chalk it up to 'baby fat'

Dec 29, 2008

Despite recent widespread media attention given to studies that have indicated one-third of American children have a weight problem, a new study shows just one-third of children who are overweight or obese actually receive ...

Recommended for you

Alcohol apps aimed at young

8 hours ago

Apps with names like 'Let's get Wasted!' and 'Drink Thin' have led a James Cook University Professor to call for Government action on alcohol advertising on mobile devices.

Proponent of the G spot takes on a critic

8 hours ago

Ashley Furin had a "very satisfying" sex life with her husband, she said. Then, seven years into their relationship, she had "an experience that rocked me to my core." They had found her G spot.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.