Open Access Research article

Back pain reporting in young girls appears to be puberty-related

Niels Wedderkopp13*, Lars Bo Andersen2, Karsten Froberg3 and Charlotte Leboeuf-Yde13

Author Affiliations

1 The Back Research Center, BackCenter Funen, Lindevej 5, 5750 Ringe, Denmark

2 Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, Sognsveien 220, 0806 Oslo, Norway

3 Institute of Sportscience and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2005, 6:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-6-52

Published: 1 November 2005



There is a large increase in back pain reporting in the early teens. In no previous study has the prevalence of low back pain been investigated in relation to the onset of puberty. The objective of this study was to establish whether the onset of puberty is associated with back pain reporting in young girls.


A subsample of 254 girls aged 8–10 years and 165 girls aged 14–16 years from a cross-sectional survey of 481 children aged 8–10 years and 325 adolescents aged 14–16 years of both sexes.

Main outcome measures were back pain defined as low back pain, mid back pain, and/or neck pain in the past month.

Other variables of interest were Puberty (five different stages), age, body mass index, and smoking. Independent information on onset of puberty was obtained through a physical examination and on back pain through an individual structured interview. The association was studied between onset of puberty and the outcome variable (the one month period prevalence of back pain), controlling for overweight, and smoking. Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were used to describe bivariate associations, logistic regression with robust standard errors was used for multivariate analyses.


There is a highly significant trend for increased back pain reporting with increasing level of puberty until maturity is reached. The biggest leap appears between the second level (beginning of puberty) and the third level (mid puberty) and the findings remain after controlling for the covariates. These results emanate from the low back, whereas pain in the mid back and neck do not seem to be linked with pubertal stage.


In girls, the reporting of low back pain increases in frequency during puberty until maturity, regardless of age. Why some girls are susceptible to back pain in the early stage of puberty is unknown.