From the Cradle to the Grave: Part 2
Between the ages of 0-7 years a child’s nervous system is developing at its fastest. Learning to sit up, crawl and walk go hand in hand with falling over, which can physically stress the joints in the spine and pelvis. Children are naturally curious and often have boundless energy, which can also lead to accidents and injuries, further stressing the joints. These physical stresses can lead to biomechanical dysfunction of the spine and nervous system. Of course this does not mean that every time your child has a fall you should rush them to the chiropractor, but look out for changes in their posture, how they walk, and how they do things; if they develop a limp, are unable to use an arm properly, or simply look “lop-sided”, it may be worth having them checked over.
As children become teenagers, there are other issues that can cause dysfunction in the spine. For sporty children the intensity of sport may increase, and it is important that they warm up properly before playing to minimise the risk of injury. Children that are not sporty often spend more time sitting watching television or playing games on a console or computer. This can lead to a forward head posture, putting more stress on the joints and muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back. In addition, prolonged sitting can affect the joints in the lower back and pelvis.
A significant problem that teenagers encounter is carrying heavy schoolbags full of books. Rucksacks worn correctly on both shoulders, or a messenger bag worn diagonally across the body, are best, as they distribute the weight more evenly over the body. Any bag worn on only one shoulder causes the teenager to hunch that shoulder up to stop their bag falling off their shoulder, which can lead to neck, shoulder and upper back problems.
Studies have shown that children should not carry more than 10% of their body weight, and that carrying 15% of their body weight can be damaging to a musculoskeletal system that is not fully matured. However, children regularly carry up to 20% of their body weight, and sometimes more if you include sports equipment and musical instruments, so it is no wonder that back and neck pain can be a significant problem for schoolchildren. Unfortunately these pains are often not taken seriously, either because parents don’t realise that children can develop similar back problems to adults, or the pains are simply put down to “growing pains”.
Another issue faced by secondary school pupils in particular, is the type of desk and chairs used in schools. In the days of yore when I was at school, we sat on upright wooden chairs and had individual sloping desks, which encouraged a better sitting posture, and angled your work towards you. Nowadays chairs are usually plastic, offering little or no lumbar support, and the use of flat tables encourages children to lean forwards over the table in order to see their work. This posture significantly increases the load on the discs in the lumbar spine, and can contribute to lower back pain.
Chiropractic treatment can be very beneficial in helping relieve back and neck pain in children of all ages. The techniques used are more similar to those used in an adult, but the force used is reduced to what is more appropriate for the age and size of the child.
If your children experience back, neck or shoulder pain, or have been injured playing sport, we offer free 15 minute spinal assessments to see if their problems may benefit from chiropractic treatment. Contact clinic reception for further details.