Back pain is surprisingly common in children, with studies showing it impacts anywhere from 18 percent to 58 percent of youth.
Kids these days engage in many “adult” activities — sitting for long periods, playing sports and carrying heavy loads. These are the same activities that often lead to back pain in adults … and your child’s spine is perhaps never more vulnerable than during the early years of development.
So what can you do to protect your child?
5 Ways to Prevent Back Pain in Children
5. Keep Flip Flops for the Pool
Flip-flops are great for the beach and pool, but if you’ll be walking any distance, choose supportive shoes designed for walking. When you wear flip-flops, you alter your gait, taking shorter steps and curling your toes to hold the shoe in place as you step forward. When worn for longer distances, this can lead to problems with your lower leg, knees, and hips and cause sore feet and back pain.[i]
4. Be Careful With These High-Risk Sports
Any physical activity has the potential to result in back pain if an injury occurs, but generally staying active is good for your back (see #2 below). That said, activities that involve repetitive activities, extension (bending backwards), rotation or high impacts (contact sports) can lead to spondylolysis, a defect or fracture in one of the vertebra in the lower back. Ballet, gymnastics, football, high jumping, diving, rowing, and weight lifting are examples of sports that are risky for your back.
3. Teach Your Child How to Lift
Avoid bending at the waist when lifting heavy items. Instead, teach your children to bend with their knees and use their legs, not their back, to lift up. Discourage your kids from lifting very heavy items (any item that causes straining to lift) or bulky/awkward shaped items.
2. Instill a Love of Exercise
Children who exercise are less likely to have low back pain, and if they do have, it will be less severe than those who are sedentary.[ii] Of course, your child doesn’t have to sign up for an aerobics class at the gym — biking riding with friends, after-school sports and playing tag all count as “exercise” whether you’re a kid or an adult. Better still, exercise helps strengthen your child’s core muscles, which will help support their back as well as improve their posture (another key to avoiding back pain while sitting at school or in front of a computer/tv).
1. Use Backpacks Safely
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “… backpacks that are too heavy or are worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers. Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints. This can lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.”[iii]
To make sure your child’s backpack is safe:
- Choose one with two shoulder straps, to distribute weight evenly, and wide, padded straps that won’t dig into shoulders or restrict circulation (lightweight, two-strap backpacks with a waist strap are ideal)
- Tighten the straps so it’s close to your child’s body, with the pack two inches above the waist
- Load heavier items near the center of the pack, and carry the lightest load possible (never more than 10-20% of your child’s body weight)
- Consider a rolling backpack (on wheels) as an alternative
Written By: Updated: June 10,2012