Total Therapy Blog
Children Back Basics
Fall is here, which means that back-to-school routines are in full swing. Between dropping the kids off at school, and carpooling out to soccer practices, spine health is probably the last thing on people’s minds. As adults, we’re familiar with the twinges and aches of low back pain – 4 out of 5 adults experience low back pain, and its annual economic cost is estimated to be over $90 billion USD (American Family Physician). For these reasons and more, low back pain in adults gets considerable attention from healthcare practitioners and policymakers alike.
What gets considerably less attention is low back pain in children. It’s hard to imagine that low back pain is even an issue in children, but studies have shown that 1 in 4 kids between the ages of 11 and 14 experience low back pain. (Archive of Disease in Childhood – PDF).
The causes of low back pain in children can be complex and diverse. Common culprits include muscle strains, core weakness, and poor posture. For example, spending hours slumped at a desk doing homework, and walking around with a heavy backpack can create the ‘perfect storm’ of conditions for back pain.
As parents, there are a few simple things that you can do to reduce your child’s risk of developing low back pain. Here are our Children Back Basics:
Find the right backpack fit.
Look for a bag with the following:
– Two wide, padded shoulder straps to distribute the weight evenly and avoid cutting off circulation to the arms
– Padded back to prevent sharp objects from digging into the back
– Waist strap to redistribute some of the load off the shoulders to the hips
– Lightweight – the bag itself shouldn’t be adding extra weight
Pack it right, pack it light.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a backpack should weigh no more than 10-20% of your child’s body weight. For a 50 lb child, this translates to a bag of no more than 5 – 10 lbs. Pack heavy items closest to the body, and put oddly-shaped items towards the outside of the bag so they don’t dig into the back.
Walk this way.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to prevent low back pain. Make sure your child gets the minimum recommended 60 minutes of activity a day by encouraging them to get up and moving. Go for walks as a family or sign your child up with a school sports team. You can also encourage activity by limiting computer and TV time – children should have no more than 1-2 hours of screen time a day (Mayo Clinic).
Be desk savvy.
At home, encourage your child to take frequent “body” breaks from homework to get up and move around. Ensure that the desk your child works at fits their body – your child should be able to comfortably rest their feet on the ground when seated, and should be able to place their forearms on the desk without having to shrug up or hunch down.
Ask for help!
Low back pain in children can also signal more serious underlying conditions. If your child is complaining of low back pain, have them assessed by a licensed healthcare practitioner like your family doctor, physiotherapist, or chiropractor. Early intervention can drastically improve outcomes for serious conditions like scoliosis, bony fractures, and disorders such as Scheuermann’s kyphosis (OthoPediatrics).
Growing up has plenty of bumps and aches on its own – back pain doesn’t have to be one of them.