Back pain can be recent (acute) or long term (chronic) pain felt in or along the spine or muscles of the neck and back.

Back pain can be sharp, stabbing, dull or feel like pressure. The pain sometimes spreads to the arms and/or legs. Pain might get worse or better with sitting, standing, walking or laying flat. Your child might have other sensations like tingling, numbness and/or weakness. Some children also have headaches or migraines. Your child may experience problems with sleeping, eating or participating in school, sports, play activities or hobbies.

A physical therapy evaluation includes:

  • A review of testing including X-rays, MRI, CT scan or blood work done by your doctor. You will need to bring the results to the appointment. You do not need to bring in the X-rays.
  • A review of medical history including medical diagnoses, injuries, family medical history and a review of recent injury or pain.
  • A discussion about how the pain is affecting your child with daily activities, participation in school and sleep.

Dress your child in clothing they can easily move in. The physical therapists will look at your child’s back and legs, measure motion of the neck, back, arms and legs. The therapist will assess strength, coordination, balance and endurance. The therapist will watch your child walk. The therapist may measure the length of the legs, feel the muscles and bones along their spine, and test reflexes and sensation.

The therapist will discuss the results of the exam with you. Together you will discuss a treatment plan, and talk about how often and how long your child will come to therapy. Sometimes it is necessary to return to the doctor for more testing.

Your Physical Therapist will teach you and your child activities and exercises to help your child feel better and do things he wants to do. In order to progress, it is important to do the exercises and activities at home.


Treatments include stretching, strengthening, balance, coordination, endurance and posture, breathing and relaxation training.

Your child will learn to lift, carry a backpack, take care of their back, and ways to sleep better.

The therapist may use heat, ice, TENS (transcutaneous electrical stimulation), tape, massage, myofascial release and craniosacral techniques.

It is important to tell your therapist if the pain is not improving or is getting worse.

Definitive diagnosis resources

An evaluation by a Pediatrician is the first step to care. The physician will arrange for further tests when needed. The tests may be X-rays, CT Scan, MRI or blood work.

The doctor may refer your child to a specialist. Two of the common specialists are; orthopedic physician or rehab physiatrist.

Sometimes pain is associated with a traumatic event, anxiety or stress and in order to address the pain it is necessary for the child to also learn skills to better manage their pain from a specialist such as Behavioral Psychiatrist or Social Worker.

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