Postural Pain in Kids
The most common complaints bringing children to a Physiotherapist are back and neck pain. Some causes of back pain in children include poor posture, inappropriate forms of exercise and carrying heavy schoolbags.
Poor posture (sitting, standing, or lying down) is usually habitual and makes the spine vulnerable to injury and pain. This injury and pain is caused by excessive stress from prolonged poor posture and can arise from many tissues around the spine. These tissues include muscles, ligaments, discs and the joints of the spine.
what is good posture?
The healthy spine curves inward at the neck, outward at the upper back, and inward at the lower back. These natural curves are referred to the neutral spine position. These three curves balance each other to ensure that the pull of gravity is evenly distributed around the spine.
When standing with the spine in a neutral spine position, the centre of the head, the shoulders, centre of the body and feet should line up vertically (from a side view). If the curves of the spine are increased or decreased, the core muscles have to work harder to support the weight of the head and body. This leads to fatigue in these muscles which reinforces the poor posture. This then leads to tissue strain and back pain.
assessment of postural disorders in kids
When attending the clinic clients undertake a full musculoskeletal assessment, which in this case would determine that posture is the most likely cause of the client’s symptoms. Assessment then further determines the likely tissues being affected by the poor posture.
A full physical examination assesses the state of the body to highlight factors that are contributing to the poor posture. These include:
- Muscle length
- Muscle strength
- Core stability
- Postural awareness
From the examination we establish a plan to address both the immediate symptoms and the underlying causes of the poor posture.
management of postural disorders in children
In some cases the symptoms present are treated to alleviate pain and inflammation in the tissues under stress. This would involve the modalities described under our service description of “Hands on Physiotherapy”.
In all cases of postural pain in children we undertake a program to correct the physical reasons for the existence of the poor posture causes the injury to the spine tissues. Such a program focuses on the following:
- Re-establishing awareness of good posture through education and taping
- Improving available joint range of movement to allow for good posture
- Stretching program for home that aims to return muscles and ligaments to their correct length
- Core stability program for home that starts off simply and then gets progressively harder as they improve
- A Pilates based strengthening program (see “Pilates Equipment studio” in our services section)
good ideas for gaming and computer use
- Teach your children how to sit properly in a chair - for example, instead of slouching; they should sit up straight with their bottom square on the seat. Teach your child to imagine they are being pulled tall by a balloon attached to the top of their head
- Consider buying your child an ergonomic chair to improve their posture while doing homework or using a computer
- Make sure your children’s feet are on the ground when sitting
- Encourage regular ‘walking and stretching’ breaks when doing homework because sitting for long periods of time can fatigue back muscles
- Make sure children are also undertaking exercise and sporting activities that balance out the prolonged sitting postures
better backpack strategies
- Carry less. Buying an extra set of books to keep at home is less expensive than doctor visits
- Make sure the backpack is worn correctly over both shoulders. Tighten straps so the weight is close to your child’s body, and don't let the backpack ride below the waist
- Put the heaviest items closest to your child’s back and the pack will be less likely to pull them out of balance
- Kids should not carry backpacks that weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. So students weighing 45 kilograms should not carry more than 4.5 to 6.8 kilograms in their packs
Better Health Channel Fact Sheet: Back Pain – Children, State of Victoria
McKenzie.R. Treat Your Own Back
McKenzie.R. Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy of the Lumbar Spine