I grew up watching my dad suffer from major back pain flare ups. He injured his back in a game of hockey in his early 20’s and found if he did too much physical activity, it would give him grief. I remember him resting in bed on his back for several days during these painful episodes. I wouldn’t wish back pain like that on anyone.
Back health is so important and starts from a young age. As a mom, I hate to see any child, including my own two girls, suffer in pain. Even though I witnessed my dad’s back pain issues first hand, I didn’t much consider my own daughter’s back health. Parents are always looking for ways to better care for their kids and thinking about their back health matters. My eyes are open now and it’s never too late to start. Begin today.
Did you know that more than half of younger Canadians have experienced at least one episode of lower back pain by their teenage years? Many things can cause back pain in kids and some of them you may not have thought of before. Take carrying a heavy backpack for example. I remember loading up my textbooks and binders in my backpack and making the 15-minute trek to school. My lower back was very sore on those big homework days.
Other back pain causes include not warming up properly before playing sports and having poor posture. Now it’s all making sense why my mom used to constantly remind me to “stand up straight”.
The good news is that there are some things you can start doing today to improve your child’s back health.
1. Show kids how to properly use their mobile devices. Nowadays, kids spend lots of time on their tablets or smartphones playing games, watching movies and sharing on social media. Yes, they are fun and convenient, but did you know that they can also cause health issues like neck strain, headaches and shoulder pain? Ensure your child holds their device closer to eye level so there is less straining and to be conscious of their posture. Taking frequent breaks to give your body a rest is also important.
2. Choose the right backpack. What your looking for is a backpack made of a lightweight material like vinyl or canvas and thick, adjustable straps. Make sure the backpack you buy has lots of pockets to better distribute the weight. If a backpack is too heavy and uneven, it can cause muscle strain, back pain and nerve damage. Yikes. Be conscious of how much you put in the backpack. It should weigh no more than 10 to 15% of your child’s body weight.
3. Regularly remind your child about good posture. My mom was very good at this and I can still hear her voice in my head telling me to stand straight and tall. If you notice your child slouching, give them a quick reminder about proper posture. It’s also a good time to check in on your posture too!
4. Teach your child how to sit properly. Did you know there is a wrong way to sit? Sitting incorrectly puts pressure on your lower back which, in turn, decreases blood flow to the muscles and causes fatigue. “Active sitting” is the best way to limit back strain. It’s pretty easy. Keep your feet flat on the ground with your back straight, shoulders squared and ears in-line with your shoulders.
5. Warm up and stretch before physical activity. There’s a reason why all aerobics classes start with a warm-up. It gets the muscles ready and increase body temperature to ensure your child’s body is ready to play. It also reduces risk of injury because stretching increases flexibility and allows joints to move through a full range of motion. It doesn’t have to be long – even 5 to 10 minutes is ok!
6. Eat healthy and drink lots of water. Both are key in maintaining optimum health. A balanced meal full of nutrients gives kids the energy they need for a busy day. Staying hydrated helps the body maintain soft tissue elasticity and keeps fluids in the joints for better mobility. We never leave home without our water bottles.
7. Get your kids moving. Regular exercise helps strengthen the core and back muscles which makes the spine more stable and less prone to injury. We love going for walks as a family and playing a fun game of soccer-baseball in the backyard.
8. Practice what you preach. These tips are not just for kids. Adults should follow them to for optimum back health. Kids will see you leading a positive example and can follow your lead.
9. Visit a chiropractor. They are experts on back health including spines, muscles and the nervous system. They can examine you and tell you why your back is sore and give you tips on how to improve it with exercise and manual therapy.
On a personal note about chiropractors, I highly recommend seeing one if you have unresolved pain. I suffered from horrible migraines and neck pain for years. After working with my chiropractor for a few months, I greatly improved. I’m so glad I went!
Visit the Ontario Chiropractic Association to learn more about back health including bones, muscles, joints and the central nervous system and to find a local chiropractor.
Has your child ever complained of back pain?
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.