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Adolescent spinal pain in the Western Australian Pregnancy (Raine) Cohort


Professor Leon Straker, Prof. Peter O’Sullivan, Dr. Anne Smith, Dr. Darren Beales, Dr Amity Campbell, Dr Andrew Briggs, Natasha Bear


Back pain and neck-shoulder pain are common and a major burden on society. Most individuals experience their first episodes of spinal pain in adolescence and this predicts their experience of spinal pain in adulthood. Whilst the evidence for a rising prevalence of spinal pain across adolescence is now clear, the impact of this and the factors contributing to the development are not well understood. Adult research shows that spinal pain should be considered from a biopsychosocial perspective and that sub-groups exist within the broad group of non-specific back or neck pain. The Raine Study recruited over 2,000 pregnant Western Australian women in 1989-1991. The children have been followed at birth, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 14, 17 and 20 years of age for a broad range of health and development issues. Spinal pain data has been collected at 14, 17 and 20 year follow-ups. This cohort provided a unique opportunity to study the prevalence and impact of spinal pain in adolescence, along with correlates and risk factors from physical, lifestyle, psychosocial, genetic and other domains.


Findings to date include:

  • detailed characterisation of chronic back pain in early adolescents
  • highlighting the impact of spinal pain in late adolescence on seeking professional health services, taking medication, missing school/work, limiting normal and physical activities
  • the influence of physical (waist girth, aerobic capacity, back muscle endurance, posture), lifestyle (school bags and inactive transport to school, TV and computer use, alcohol and smoking), social (family functioning, family stress events), psychological (early life psychological trajectories, depression, negative back pain beliefs), comorbidities, gender, familial and genetic factors on spinal pain development


National Health and Medical Research Council, Western Australian Arthritis Foundation, Arthritis Australia, Curtin University


Scholarly Journal – Refereed Article

Astfalck R., O’Sullivan P., Straker L, & Smith A (2010)
A detailed characteristisation of pain, disability, physical and psychological features of adolescents with non-specific chronic low back pain. Manual Therapy 15(3): 240-247.

Briggs AM, Straker LM, Bear N, Smith AJ (2009)
Neck/shoulder pain in adolescents is not related to the level or nature of self-reported physical activity or type of sedentary activity in an Australian pregnancy cohort. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 10: 87.

Straker L. M., O’Sullivan P. B., Smith A. J., & Perry M. C (2009)
Relationships between prolonged neck/shoulder pain and sitting spinal posture in male and female adolescents. Manual Therapy, 14(3), 321-329.

O’Sullivan P. B., Straker L. M., Smith A. J., Perry M. C., & Kendall G (2008)
Carer experience of back pain is associated with adolescent back pain experience even when controlling for other carer and family factors. Clinical Journal of Pain, 24(3), 226-231.