Back pain in children accounts for only about 1-6% of cases of spinal problems*. When they do present, spinal problems often come to the fore with children going back to school after the summer break. Sun and the great outdoors, combined with briefer periods spent hunched over the books can bring on a growth spurt.
'Growing pains' come to light as bone growth outstrips the elongation of the clothing soft tissues, so that the growing skeleton gets (sometimes painfully) caught in a web of its own soft tissues as it shoots skywards.
The sudden height gain may also overwhelm the ability of the muscles to control that height so that the willowy frame, unsupported by strong musculature, starts to bend and bow in all the obvious places.
Adolescence is when problem postures set in.
Even as adults, people often relate how their symptoms came on (particularly a scoliotic curvature) during adolescence.
Obviously, there is not much you can do about a growth spurt - except you always want your children to keep as physically active as possible.
Youthful activity enhances the conditions for growing by making skeletons fully primed in strength. The stretching and bending also keeps childish skeletons pulled apart and loose, so that bones and joints can grow out unfettered.
There is another set of factors that you can, and must, address which make a profound difference in stopping spinal problems in school age children.
This is not about school bags - though you might have thought it was. (I have never subscribed to the tut-tutting about school bags, though I know a lot of my fellow back professionals do.
Certainly, school bags are heavy these days - and I would invariably feel a pang seeing my willowy youngest daughter shouldering her huge bag as she trudged up the hill to school. But, before she'd gone a hundred yards, I knew the very uncomfortableness of it, would mean she'd slung over the other shoulder, just to keep going.
Tough as I may seem, kids benefit from this sort of postural training of their youth. With the worrying statistics emerging about fitness and obesity in children, it does them no harm to carry their own bags to school. Sometimes it is the only exercise they get!)
Far more insidious for spinal health is what the computer age is doing to our kids, from three or four years on. It commonly goes by the name of 'text neck'. You can read more here about Sitting at a Computer in a way that avoids back pain.
Children can sit for hours, inert and hunched over a computer, their only physical effort being keystrokes and pushing the mouse.
Although their spinal bases suffer from the squashing of their lumbar discs (and remember sitting is 'new' in an evolutionary sense - we used to squat) it is really the upper end of the spine that suffers most. You can read more here about exercise for posture for the upper back to prevent back problems setting in.
* Spine 1998 Jan 15;23(2):228-34.
At what age does low back pain become a common problem? A study of 29,424 individuals aged 12-41 years.
Lebeouf-Yde C, Kyvik KO
Read more about Sarah's video on upper back pain of the computer age and the upper back strengthening exercises to deal with it
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