“59% of healthy school-age children, followed through maturity, experienced
low back pain by the time they reached 18-19 years old. At the outset of the
investigation, when they were 7 to 8 years old, 9% of the children had reported
experiencing low back pain, showing a clear increase in prevalence.” This quote
comes from a presentation given by Dr Teija Lund (ORTON Orthopaedic Hospital,
Helsinki) at the 14th Congress of the
European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics
and Traumatology (EFORT) in Istanbul last year, where the troubling
idea of our children having low back pain (LBP) came under the spotlight.
Why on earth would an otherwise healthy child have LBP? As National
Physiotherapy BackWeek approaches, it’s worth thinking about what might put
your child at risk.
Why kids have lower back pain
“Serious pathology as a cause of LBP in school-children is uncommon,” says
Fran Theron, of the SASP (South African Society of Physiotherapy) Paediatrics
Special Interest Group. LBP seems to increase as puberty looms; it’s more
common in girls than in boys, and presents earlier in girls, adds Theron.
“There is an association between LBP and the number of hours per week the
teenager spends in front of the TV or doing computer work,” she says. 15 is the
magic number: more than that, and the adolescent is at greater risk of LBP.
The reason for this could be poor posture while sitting in front of a
screen; but it could also be simply because the child has low levels of
physical activity. “Those who do not participate in sporting activities may
demonstrate muscle atrophy and decreased muscle endurance, which could be a
possible cause of LBP.,” says Theron. Their muscles have, in effect, weakened
because they’re not getting enough exercise. “Regular participation in sports
appears to be protective against LBP in adolescents, with regular performance
of non-strenuous physical activity important for trunk muscle strength and
endurance.” The child or teenager who gets outside for hours of play every day,
running and climbing and kicking balls and using bats, is likely to have
stronger muscles in the back and the stomach, as well as better flexibility.
Physical activity is important
“Physical activity during adolescence and growth builds trunk strength and
endurance and may improve the development of the low back musculature
structures which may facilitate optimal low back function,” Theron says. She
adds a warning: don’t let your child overdo it. Youngsters who are obsessive
about sport can put themselves at higher risk. “The risk of injuries increases
when the frequency of training is more than 10 hours a week.”
So adolescents would be better off not becoming gym bunnies. “Regular, daily
activity, from walking to swimming to dancing to running around at play, is all
it takes to help your child avoid LBP,” says SASP President Linda Steyn. See breaking news and the hottest health tips before anybody else by joining South Africa’s biggest and best health community, like health24 on Facebook now!
your child assessed for LBP during National Physiotherapy BackWeek: to find out
more, contact the SASP Head Office on 011 615 3170.
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