We have a tendency to associate back pain with adulthood. It’s easy to appreciate why. Most of us enjoyed having agreeable spines during our carefree youths, only to experience them acting up around the same time we became worried about mortgages and supplemental life insurance.
But children are not spared from back pain. According to a recent study by the medical periodical Spine, one in three children between the ages of 10 and 18 have experienced back pain within the past year. Nearly 9% reported that their back pain was severe. In other words, if you have two kids, it is likely at least one of them has recently suffered from back pain.
Fortunately, back pain is characteristically mild in children. The most commonly reported symptoms are mild to moderate pain while moving or remaining motionless for extended periods of time, tenderness around the spine, and tight muscles. These sources of discomfort are commonly alleviated – if not eliminated altogether – when the child’s parent helps them adopt a few healthier lifestyle habits. All in all, less than 5% of children who seek treatment for back pain are prescribed surgical or procedural intervention.
Before we continue, please take care that some very serious medical conditions may cause children to experience back pain. Conditions such as scoliosis, spondylolysis and Scheuermann’s kyphosis. If your child reports back pain, it is essential that a doctor rules out a disease origin for their symptoms.
With that precaution in place, here are some tips on how to help your child avoid back pain.
Ensure They Wear Their Backpack Correctly
“Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight.” The Beatles weren’t kidding! Kids’ backpacks commonly weigh 10-22% as much as their bodies. Unless it fits and is worn properly, your kid’s backpack could cause significant disc compression and resultant back pain. There are four key ways to prevent your child’s backpack from hurting them.
- Purchase a backpack that fits correctly. The backpack should have straps that adjust until the child can wear them comfortably, and not shift around while they are walking. If your child wears their backpack with a winter coat, make certain it still fits comfortably over the coat. Finally, a backpack should not sit too low on the back, as that can place excessive pressure on the shoulders.
- Break in the backpack. Like hiking boots, a backpack fits better once it has become broken in. Before the school year begins, encourage your child to wear their backpack around the house or during a hiking excursion. Take this opportunity to teach them how to fill a backpack – with softer items up against their body and separating the harder ones.
- Make sure the backpack isn’t overloaded. A kid’s backpack should weigh no more than 15% of their bodyweight. For example, if your child weighs 50 pounds, their backpack should weigh no more than 7.5 pounds total.
- Make sure your child wears both straps. Wearing a backpack by only one strap doesn’t just place twice as much pressure on one shoulder. It also makes good posture impossible, which in turn places needless strain on the spine and its surrounding muscle tissues.
Encourage a Healthy Posture
Most of us remember at least one respected elder who encouraged us to stand up straight and never to slouch when we were kids. This advice, while seldom appreciated by children, is sound. Poor posture places needless strain on the vertebrae, and prolonged slouching can force the ligaments of the spine to stretch past their healthy capacity. Either of these can precipitate back pain whether you’re young or old.
Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle
Children aged 8-12 years old spend an average of four to six hours staring at screens every day; for teenagers, that amount of time skyrockets to nine hours a day! Spending over one-third of your life watching a screen is unhealthy for too many reasons to list here, but the slouching that goes hand-in-hand with slumping over a smartphone certainly ranks highly among them.
Furthermore, screentime is nearly universally synonymous with inactivity – which itself is closely linked to back pain. A child who does not exercise cannot develop the several muscles which are so essential to supporting their shoulders and lower back. They are also at higher risk of obesity, which places added stress on every joint in their body including those between the vertebrae.
Encourage your child to put down the Nintendo and stretch or go play outdoors. Join them, if that might sweeten the deal. Finally, give your child access to healthy foods, especially while they’re at a young age. This can foster good eating habits that will help them avert obesity throughout the course of their lifetime.
Contact a Chiropractor to Help with Back Pain
In addition to adults, the doctors of Fargo Spine have also helped children for countless medical issues – including back pain. If your child doesn’t feel better after making a few unobtrusive lifestyle changes, then we welcome you to contact us today and learn how chiropractic medicine’s multi-faceted approach to wellness can be of great benefit to your kid and their spine!