Pencils? Check. Books?Check. Teacher’s dirty looks? Surely not! But whether your kid is the teacher’s pet or the class clown, the school year is here once again. Your school shopping is done and your schedule worked out, so your child is probably prepared for whatever this school year has in store. Or is he? Your student has enough to worry about without lower back pain, strains, and other conditions limiting their potential. Find out how to help them avoid and manage it so they can stay focused on their studies.
Back pain is just a problem for adults, right? It’s true that children’s spines are more flexible and less prone to injury, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it when he or she complains about back pain. Most times, it’ll be something musculoskeletal – some niggling injury that can be addressed with stretches or home remedies – but very rarely it can be caused by illness.
- Osteomyelitis, although rare in healthy kids, is a serious bone infection. It can interfere with growth and can potentially destroy bone. Early diagnosis and treatment of this infection goes a long way toward preventing bone damage, but diagnosing early is difficult; often the symptoms of this infection are the same as minor sprains and injuries. If these symptoms are accompanied by fever or chills, lethargy or irritability, swelling or redness, consult a physician immediately.
- Cancers (such as those that effect your spine) are also rare in kids, but bone tumors are among the most common tumors in those age groups. It is twice as common in boys as it is in girls. Again, if you have reason to suspect these conditions, consult a physician.
While these conditions should not be ignored, back pain in kids and adolescents is far more frequently related to injury.
Common Causes of Back Injury in Kids.
Sports and Activity:
By far the most common culprit of back pain in kids and adolescents is sports and other activities. Kids tend to attack new interests with a passion, and sometimes this can mean pushing themselves to excel in an activity so hard they exhaust themselves.
It’s important to monitor how often and how vigorously kids pursue their passions, and to make sure they follow their coach or trainer’s advice on proper forms and rest periods. Kids can also benefit from a little cross training – activities that vary which muscles are being used will create an all-around level of health and fitness and will make them less prone to injury.
And as always, proper warming up and stretching should be part of their daily routine if they’re active in sports.
Peer into any classroom and you’re sure to see rows and rows of kids hunched over their papers, slumped back in their chairs, or in any number of other awkward positions. And let’s face it: the desks in most schools aren’t designed with your child’s back health in mind.
Sitting through a lecture, studying, or taking a test involve prolonged periods of sitting in awkward poses that can cause muscles and other soft tissue to stretch or compress, which can lead to discomfort and back pain. It’s even possible for nerves to become inflamed as a result.
Laptop computers and tablets have become invaluable study tools for students, but the same traits that make them so great – their size and portability – may also cause students to hunch over them or use them in positions that result in sustained poor posture.
Sometimes it seems like our students carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. The nice part of laptops and tablets is that they’ve lightened the backpack load for many students. But the lessened load only goes so far when kids were already hauling around up to 40% of their body weight in books and school supplies. When possible, get your student to keep the weight of their backpack as low as possible, even if it means multiple trips to their lockers between classes.
How many times have you seen your child sling a bag over one shoulder on the way out the door? Throwing a heavy bag over a single shoulder inevitably means your student is leaning and craning to center that weight on the legs. Backpacks are meant to distribute that load across both shoulders. Getting them to use both straps will significantly reduce their risk of developing spine injuries.
If your student’s backpack comes with a chest strap, this simple device will help keep the pack as close to the body as possible, further reducing stress on the spine.
Staying Healthy. Staying Focused.
Kids bounce. But while back pain and spinal injuries are far more common as we get older, it doesn’t mean being a kid is a blank check to ignore things like stretching, good posture, proper footwear, and training for sports and activities.
If your child complains of back pain, try to identify what they might have been doing to cause it. Most of the time some stretches and minor postural corrections will go a long way toward relieving these minor pains. If you’re worried that their pain could be something more serious, it might be time to consult a professional. We’re here to help you get them relief and back to hitting the books.