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Children and Adolescents with Low Back Pain

Low back pain is increasingly recognized as a problem among children and adolescents, particularly those who are physically active and participate in sports. The prevalence of low back pain among individual aged 12-17 has been estimated to be as high as 20-25%. Although many adolescents recover quickly from an episode of low back pain, some will develop chronic or recurrent problems into adulthood. Although much research has been devoted to studying adults with low back pain, little is known about the clinical presentation or outcomes of rehabilitation provided to children and adolescents with low back pain.

Current Projects

Rehabilitation Outcomes of Children and Adolescents with Low Back Pain

This study examines children and adolescents between the ages of 12-17 with low back pain presenting to either the athletic trainers or physical therapists at Intermountain Health Care. All participants are evaluated before and after receiving treatment using standardized measures of pain, disability, and physical impairments.

Pain and disability will be re-assessed at the end of treatment to determine the clinical outcomes of care. Long-term outcomes of care are examined after one-year, including pain, disability, sports participation, and recurrence of symptoms. The primary hypotheses of the study are that children and adolescents with low back pain will differ in clinical presentation and classification distribution when compared with adults.

We further hypothesize that the classification system will be applicable and reliable when used with children and adolescents with low back pain, and that the clinical outcomes of treatment using this system will not differ between adolescents and adults.

Finally, we will explore variables from the baseline examination for prognostic value in predicting successful treatment outcomes and successful return to full sports/recreational activity without recurrence over a 1-year period.


    • Gerard Brennan, PT, PhD
    • Director of Clinical Quality and Outcomes
    • Intermountain Health Care
    • Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Shannon N. Clifford, MPT
    • Doctoral Student, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
    • University of Pittsburgh
    • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Key Publications

  • Clifford SN, Fritz JM. Children and adolescents with low back pain: A descriptive study of physical examination and outcome measurement. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 2003;31:513-522.

Contact Us

Charlie Hicks-Little, PhD

Phone: 801-581-4897 Email: