Are back problems not only for older people? So, why do I already suffer from low back pain at a young age? This is a very common question in the young dance world. 

Low back problems are a very common problem in the dance world. A lot of young dancers already suffer from low back pain during their childhood or adolescence. Previous research found that at least 33% of the adolescent dancers already suffered at least once from an episode of low back pain, before reaching the age of 18 years old (1). These numbers are surprisingly high, considering that low back pain is mostly common in adults in the common population. So why do dancers already suffer from low back pain at such a young age? And what are the consequences?

‘I’m too flexible’

When asking the young dancers themselves, a lot of them stated that they were too flexible in the back which causes their low back pain. Previous studies shared this hypothesis, that overall hypermobility in the joints can cause low back pain in young dancers. However, recent literature concluded that it was not the joint hypermobility that causes low back pain in young dancers, but it was more the inability to control the movements of the spine that would cause the low back pain (2). This was a very interesting starting point. So, if we just start training the muscle control and the stability in the joints, then all our low back problems would be gone? Hmm... Is it though…?

‘Mind – body connection’ 

Since the recent discovery of the lack of muscular control in the lower back, a lot of physiotherapists started training these muscles. However, it appeared that this would not be the only possible explanation for the low back pain in young dancers. Researcher stated that we also need to look at the whole biopsychosocial sphere of the dancers (3). This means that we not only have to pay attention to the biological aspects of a dancers, but that we also must look at their entire way of life and environment.

‘The road to the top’

Young dancers live in a very demanding culture where only the best can make it to the top. Especially when you are a young girl, there are not as many places for you in the professional dancing world compared to male dancers. So, you really have to be the top of the class to have a small change to be noticed by the jury. Unsurprisingly, this comes with a lot of stress, perfectionism, and a pressure to perform which could cause an enormous taboo towards talking about pain and injuries in the dance culture.

So, could these psychosocial factors play a role in the development of low back pain at a very young age? Or is it the lack of muscular control? Or is it a combination of both? These are the answers that we are trying to resolve during my PhD project. During this PhD project, we try to investigate the sociocultural environment of a young dancer and the role of these factors in the development of their low back pain.

For more information about this research project, you can always contact us at

1.         Swain CTV, Bradshaw EJ, Whyte DG, Ekegren CL. Life history and point prevalence of low back pain in pre-professional and professional dancers. Physical Therapy in Sport. 2017;25:34-8.

2.         Roussel NA, Nijs J, Mottram S, Van Moorsel A, Truijen S, Stassijns G. Altered lumbopelvic movement control but not generalized joint hypermobility is associated with increased injury in dancers. A prospective study. Manual Therapy. 2009;14(6):630-5.

3.         Roussel N, De Kooning M, Schutt A, Mottram S, Truijen S, Nijs J, et al. Motor Control and Low Back Pain in Dancers. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 2013;34(2):138-43.