In contrast to an assessment of an adult presenting with low back pain (LBP), clinicians should utilise different approaches when assessing children and adolescents presenting with LBP. Children are not ‘little adults’. There are some unique pathologies that only occur in this age group: (i) serious pathologies include infection, fracture, child abuse and malignancy; (ii) growth-related pathologies include scoliosis, Scheuermann’s disease, pars fracture and spondylolysis; and (iii) rheumatological conditions include juvenile idiopathic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. With changes in each child occurring physically, emotionally and socially, a clinician’s knowledge of typical developmental milestones is essential to identify regression or delayed development. When listening to a child discuss their pain experience, a flexible structure should be implemented that gives the capacity to actively listen to a child’s narrative (and that of their guardian) and to conduct an effective physical examination. This viewpoint also summarises the relationship between potential clinical diagnoses and key elements of a physical examination. Deciding on the type and timing of paediatric-specific physical examination tests requires unique child-centred considerations. Paediatric-specific outcome measures should be used but implemented pragmatically, with consideration regarding the time, complexity and pathology suspected. Systematic and rigorous approaches to both treatment planning and re-assessment are then proposed for the assessment of children and adolescents presenting with LBP.
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Paediatrics and Child Health Division (The Royal Australasian College of Physicians).