It’s a condition that most of us associate with adults, but research reveals that children suffer from back pain too.
A Finnish study published in The British Medical Journal shows that children aged between 12 and 18 suffer from regular back pain. Even worse, the results show that the complaint among children has doubled over the past 16 years.
Ongoing research from Finland’s University of Tampere found that back pain among children was significantly greater in 1997 than in 1985.
Another survey carried out recently by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) estimates that one third of schoolchildren – some as young as five – complain of weekly back pain and posture-related problems.
Why Do They Develop Back Pain?
Children’s growing back pain problem could be blamed on a variety of factors. The main reasons are lack of exercise and spending too many hours in front of the TV and computer.
Sitting for hours at a time means that young muscles and joints can become immobile leading to stiffness and postural problems.
You should keep your child active, in order to keep joints exercised and muscles strong but if your children love computer games and sitting at their lap tops or TV for hours on end, try to make sure that they sit up straight with shoulders back; make sure their feet are on the ground. Try to get them to take frequent breaks and walk around and stretch.
Childhood injuries can get worse if left untreated but apart from the obvious culprits, there are other reasons why your child might be suffering from back problems. Children tend to fall off bicycles or slides regularly risking injury to their joints and causing permanent stiffness. This can lead to muscle wasting or spasms around the joints.
There are other hidden causes of childhood back pain. Fewer schools nowadays offer locker facilities leaving children to carry heavy satchels containing books and lunch boxes around all day.
A typical school bag weighs at least 60 pounds. Carrying a schoolbag is a daily activity for most children and much research has been conducted in an effort to identify a safe load limit for children to carry in their schoolbags. Despite this, there is still no consensus about guideline weight and other factors associated with carrying a schoolbag.
There are conflicting findings in the literature. The recommended load limit for schoolchildren to carry varies from 5% to 20% of their body weight, but the evidence linking backpack weight and back pain is inconclusive. It is suggested that general guidance may be more appropriate than a single load limit guideline.
As a rough guide, therefore, if your child weighs 100 pounds (45 kilograms) they should probably not carry more than 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 6.8 kilograms) in their packs.
It makes good sense to encourage your child to carry less. Buying an extra set of books to keep at home is better than waiting for your child to develop back pain.
If your child uses a back pack, make sure they tighten the straps so the weight is close to their body, and don’t let the backpack ride below the waist.
Put the heaviest items closest to the back and the pack will be less likely to pull them out of balance.
Children who carry heavy weights all day could be developing postural problems which may not be spotted until adult life.
How to spot whether your child has a bad back
Identifying whether your child has a back problem can be hard. This is because children’s pain manifests in different places to adults, so it’s harder to spot.
Adults tend to get pain originating in their back spreading out to their legs and buttocks, however, children typically feel it in their knees, thighs, groin or even stomach.
This could be because children have less developed nervous systems than adults meaning the brain perceives pain in different parts of the body.
The nerve impulses that send messages to the brain from the spine are less mature, so children often complain of dull aching pain in the knees or stomach – when in fact it stems from the lower back or pelvis region.