Fitness, Motor Competence, and Body Composition Are Weakly Associated With Adolescent Back Pain

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Cross-sectional survey.


To assess the associations between adolescent back pain and fitness, motor competence, and body composition.


Although deficits in physical fitness and motor control have been shown to relate to adult back pain, the evidence in adolescents is less clear.


In this crosssectional study, 1608 “Raine” cohort adolescents (mean age, 14 years) answered questions on lifetime, month, and chronic prevalence of back pain, and participated in a range of physical tests assessing aerobic capacity, muscle performance, flexibility, motor competence, and body composition. A history of any diagnosed back pain in the adolescent was obtained from the primary caregiver.


After multivariate logistic regression analysis, increased likelihood of back pain in boys was associated with greater aerobic capacity, greater waist girth, and both reduced and greater flexibility. Back pain in girls was associated with greater abdominal endurance, reduced kinesthetic integration, and both reduced and greater back endurance. Lower likelihood of back pain was associated with greater bimanual dexterity in boys and greater lower extremity power in girls.


Physical characteristics are commonly cited as important risk factors in back pain development. Although some factors were associated with adolescent back pain, and these differed between boys and girls, they made only a small contribution to logistic regression models for back pain. The results suggest future work should explore the interaction of multiple domains of risk factors (physical, lifestyle, and psychosocial) and subgroups of adolescent back pain, for whom different risk factors may be important.

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