Juvenile Arthritis of the Spine
When juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects the spine, it is referred to as ankylosing spondylitis (AS). In patients with AS, the joints and discs in the spine become inflamed and painful, and new bone forms between the joints and vertebrae, fusing parts of the spine together and limiting motion. While AS cannot be cured, the good news is that surgery is rarely needed, and most patients can lead normal and productive lives.
Spinal Injuries in Older Children
Children and teens who participate in more competitive and specialized sports are prone to certain types of spinal injuries. Spondylosis is damage to a joint in the spine that can occur in children who regularly hyperextend their backs (bend backwards), as in gymnastics. Spondylolisthesis is a “slipping” of one vertebra on another and is a condition that can progressively worsen through adolescence. Disc injuries and fractured vertebrae frequently result when teens land very hard on their feet or buttocks in “extreme” sports like skateboarding, inline skating, and “vert” biking.
There is another problem that has become very common in school-age children and teens: overuse injuries and back strain from carrying backpacks that are too heavy. Overloaded backpacks put tremendous stress on the developing spine, especially when slung over one shoulder.