Going Back to School and Preventing Lower Back Pain in Children
With fall right around the corner and school about to start it is appropriate to discuss some simple tips to help children prevent lower back pain. Lower back pain in children is more common than a lot of people realize, it’s prevalence could be as high as 70-80% in those under 20 years old.
Things that can contribute to this problem are children being too sedentary and how children mechanically load their spines.
Our school systems require that our children sit too much. Sitting at a desk for 3-4 hours in the morning and 2-3 hours in the afternoon is a difficult thing for young spines to do. From a paleoanthropologic point of view, we are designed to hunt and gather not to sit. The natural curves of our spine are meant for walking on two feet not sitting on our rears.
Recess and gym are important to allow for children to play and get up on their feet. Any school that cuts these programs is setting their students up for problems in the future.
In the lower back the natural curve is made so that it is hollow in the small of the back and convex in the front. This curve is reversed when a child sits with a slouched posture. The slouched posture puts a tremendous load on the discs of the lumbar spine. This load if sustained is what probably sets up the discs to bulge and eventually degenerate, as one gets older.
Parents would be well advised to inform their children to sit up straight when in school and talk with their teachers to allow them to stand and take a micro-break from sitting every twenty to thirty minutes. A micro-break is as simple as a stretch standing up and reaching their hands high so as to reset their posture. This takes all of a few seconds and really should not disrupt the class (it may even cut down on the fidgeting one sees when kids sit too long, as this may be their natural way to reset their postures).
Backpacks are a problem. Many children carry more than the recommended 10-20% of their body weight by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I would recommend staying at 10% if possible. Make sure your child uses two well-padded shoulder straps and a waist strap. The pack should fit snuggly to the child’s back well above the waist. The pack should never be carried off on one side and not carried below the waist. A wheeled back pack may be needed if the child has to carry heavier loads.
The bottom line is that posture and remaining active are important in preventing problems. So teach your children well, so that they can avoid suffering from episodes of lower back pain.