Background: Back pain in children is common and early onset of back pain has been shown to increase the risk of back pain significantly in adulthood. Consequently, preventive efforts must be targeted the young population but research relating to spinal problems in this age group is scarce. Focus has primarily been on the working age population, and therefore specific questionnaires to measure spinal pain and its consequences, specifically aimed at children and adolescents are absent. The purpose of this study was to develop a questionnaire for schoolchildren filling this gap.
Methods: The Young Spine Questionnaire (YSQ) was developed in three phases--a conceptualisation, development and testing phase. The conceptualisation phase followed the Wilson and Cleary model and included questions regarding spinal prevalence estimates, pain frequency and intensity, activity restrictions, care seeking behaviour and influence of parental back trouble. Items from existing questionnaires and the "Revised Faces Pain Scale" (rFPS) were included during the development phase. The testing phase consisted of a mixed quantitative and qualitative iterative method carried out in two pilot tests using 4th grade children and focusing on assessment of spinal area location and item validity.
Results: The testing phase resulted in omission of the pain drawings and the questions and answer categories were simplified in several questions. Agreement between the questionnaire prevalence estimates and the interviews ranged between 83.7% (cervical pain today) and 97.9% (thoracic pain today). To improve the understanding of the spinal boundaries we added bony landmarks to the spinal drawings after pilot test I. This resulted in an improved sense of spinal boundary location in pilot test II. Correlations between the rFPS and the interview pain score ranged between 0.67 (cervical spine) and 0.79 (lumbar spine).
Conclusions: The Young Spine Questionnaire contains questions that assess spinal pain and its consequences. The items have been tested for content understanding and agreement between questionnaire scores and interview findings among target respondents. These preliminary results suggest that the YSQ is feasible, has content validity and is a well understood questionnaire to be used in studies of children aged 9 to 11 years.