OBJECTIVES: Back pain is one of the major problems for the public health system in the western world. The purposes of this study were to assess back pain in a large cohort of adolescents; to evaluate the prevalence, intensity, and features; and obtain information about drug management of this symptom.
METHODS: One thousand four hundred seventy-one healthy students aged 14 to 19 years were enrolled in the study. The subjects underwent a face-to-face interview using an ad hoc questionnaire, the Numeric Rating Scale, the Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory, and the Short-Form 36 questionnaire.
RESULTS: Sixty-eight percent of adolescents reported moderate to severe pain, with a higher prevalence of moderate/severe pain in female. The intensity of pain was higher (P < 0.001) in females than in men. A correlation was found between pain and quality of life. Considering the adolescents with severe pain, 21.6% requested a doctor's opinion, and 18% used analgesics (63.2% of them without a doctor's prescription), with a frequency of about 2 times per month.
CONCLUSIONS: We found that the prevalence of back pain in adolescents is very high, with the consequences on quality of life, and it becomes frequently a self-managed symptom. This should encourage research on the causes of pain in order to limit the risk factors underlying the pain development and obtain a good prevention strategy.