School is well underway and more children are experiencing back pain as the school year presses on. This article provides tips on how to avoid back pain and injuries from heavy book bags, hunched over tech neck, and more. Read the article below for more tips and information regarding kids back pain:
School is back in session, and kids are getting into a groove for the year ahead. They’ll spend the coming months lugging book bags around, hunched over desks, engaging in physical education and maybe even participating in after-school sports. On top of that, more kids than ever will have their heads down, looking at the screen on a phone. All together, it’s a recipe for nagging back and neck problems.
In fact, according to a study presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), there has been a significant increase in back pain, specifically lower back pain, among children and adolescents between ages 10 and 18 years old. The discomfort also appears to increase linearly with age (about four percent for each year of age).
Incredibly, 33.7 percent of study participants had experienced back pain in the previous year, yet fewer than half (40.9 percent) sought treatment. When they did seek help, it was usually in the form of physical therapy (44 percent), massage therapy (33.9 percent) or chiropractic treatment (34.1 percent).
With so many kids going through this, how can you prevent it from happening to your children? Here are some suggestions for protecting your child’s spine this school year.
Find the Right Backpack
“Of all school supplies, no item is more important than a well-fitting backpack,” says Dr. Slonaker. As he explains, too much weight can put a strain on the body, causing back pain. When a child wears an ill-positioned, poorly-fitted backpack, it puts them at risk for long-term spinal issues. “The wrong backpack is especially harmful for students with posture issues or scoliosis, which are becoming increasingly more common.”
Parents magazine points out that, while it’s tempting to choose a backpack for the price tag or style, it’s much more important to focus on functionality. Dr. Slonaker offered the following helpful tips for finding the right one this school year:
- Fit: The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso, and never hang more than four inches below the waist.
- Weight: The American Chiropractic Association recommends a backpack weigh no more than 5-10% of a child’s weight.
- Design: Choose an ergonomic design that has padded back and shoulder straps. Hip and chest belts also help transfer some of the weight to the hips and torso, taking pressure off the back and shoulders. Multiple compartments also help distribute the weight evenly.
- Wear: Your child should always use both straps when carrying the backpack to help minimize muscle strain and posture problems. It is also important not to overfill the backpack. Determine necessary items to pack or leave at home, and pack lightly whenever possible!
As part of the Backing Our Community Program, HealthSource clinics across the country are offering free backpack checks and scoliosis screenings for students 18 and under through September 30, 2019.
Avoid Tech Neck
The average person spends between two and four hours a day reading or texting on their smartphone. According to The Spine Hospital at the Neurological Institute of New York, the worst offenders are teenagers, who spend far more time on their devices. This continued use of a device often leads to “tech neck, the term coined to describe the position of the head and neck when the device is held at chest or waist level, eyes focused down on the screen.”
While the human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds, one study found that, when we’re hunched over our phones, the effect of the head’s weight can reach up to 60 pounds! When you think of how many hours kids might stay in that position, it’s no surprise that this posture can lead to neck pain and even herniated discs. This is, of course, compounded by the time spent sitting at a computer doing homework!
It’s not realistic to expect kids (or adults!) to give up technology, but Dr. Slonaker lists two practical things we can do to minimize the negative impact:
- Have an ergonomic desk setup: Add a lumbar support cushion and adjust chair height so your child’s arms and head are in healthy positions. Raise the height of the monitor so they are looking straight forward or slightly above and not below eye level.
- Perform neck stretches and exercises: Encourage kids to do chin tucks and shoulder blade retractions, as well as neck and shoulder mobility circles. A healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist or chiropractor can demonstrate how to use a foam roller, mobility ball or neck wedge to stretch overworked muscles and improve posture.
Additionally, some parents may find it beneficial to take their children in for regular chiropractic adjustments. It’s important to do your research and find a practitioner whose style aligns with your family’s needs.
Get Enough Rest
We already know that most of us don’t get enough sleep every night. Kids might seem like they have boundless energy, but the truth is that they need to rest in order to recharge their bodies and promote healthy brain function, too. Some research even suggests that getting adequate rest can prevent injuries.
Most people’s beds are too soft and that it’s advisable to skip the three-inch pillow top mattress pad. Instead, to get the mind and body ready for bedtime, reduce screen time and the consumption of stimulants (such as sugar and caffeine) in the evenings along with setting aside time for meditation to create a restful environment.
Why is it so hard for most of us to drink enough water every day? While it’s important for everyone, it’s critical that active kids are properly hydrated.
How much water they need will depend on your child’s age, weight and level of activity, but this article from WebMD could be helpful. Either way, make sure they take a water bottle with them to school, and encourage them to sip it throughout the day.
Today’s kids are busier than ever, which can put a lot of strain on their growing bodies. By taking a proactive approach to your child’s health, you can protect their spine and help prevent back pain and injuries that could impact them on their journey into adulthood. Nobody wants to live with back pain, and by following these steps, you’re giving your student the best chance to live a pain-free life.