Why do children and young people develop back pain?
Babies cut their first tooth generally around 6 months old- which is when we, as parents, start encouraging them to take care of their teeth, and showing them how to do so. We do this because it is ingrained in us that we need to brush (at least) twice daily, floss, and use mouthwash to keep our teeth and gums healthy, and avoid dental problems. But yet no one encourages us to take care of our spines from such a young age. What would happen if we did? Would it lead to a generation who know how to take care of themselves and avoid the back pain that has plagued their parents generation?
Back pain affects children too! A recent study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood analysed 1403 school children and found that of these, 61.4% had backpacks exceeding 10% of their body weight. Those carrying the heaviest backpacks had a 50% higher risk of back pain, and girls had a higher risk of back pain compared with boys. So unfortunately we do have to start thinking of ways in which we can promote healthy spine care in our children.
What can cause back pain in young people?
Desk and chair dimensions play a significant role in paediatric back pain- as schoolchildren spend considerable amounts of time sitting at a desk, which are often the wrong size for them. The problem is further exacerbated by a lack of physical activity both at home and at school. As children progress through school, they spend increasing amounts of time studying, and often spend their spare time playing on computer games, all of which increase the likelihood of developing postural aches and strains.
So what can you do to help your child take care of their back?
- Make sure you regularly go through your child’s schoolbag with them- are all of those textbooks necessary? Could they be left in a locker and picked up between classes?
- Are they using their rucksack correctly, and not slinging it over one shoulder? Carrying the weight over one shoulder can cause muscular strains and increased postural stresses distributed unevenly throughout the body.
- The rucksack should not be wider than your child’s shoulders, nor should it be taller than their shoulders when sitting.
- Encourage regular breaks from studying. Taking a break every 30 minutes to ease tired, aching muscles and will stop those postural pains and stresses from creeping in.
- Check their footwear: Soft-soled shoes that are supportive and have a good grip will make it easier for your child to carry a school bag and support them as they rush around during the day.
- If your child continues to report back pain, it is important to consult a medical professional for appropriate advice.
A useful resource:
As part of the “Straighten Up UK” programme, The British Chiropractic Association (www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk) have produced a leaflet with a set of simple, three minute exercises for children. These are designed to be done on a daily basis and become part of the daily routine, just like brushing our teeth- you can download the leaflet here.
P.S. There’s a Straighten Up UK leaflet for adults too!