Back to school tips for avoiding back pain in children
Prevention is better than cure!
Children of any age may encounter muscle or joint based pain.
Poor postural habits may develop because of slumping during lessons or sitting hunched over a tablet or phone, and can often lead to low back or neck and shoulder problems. As children get older and move up through school they are expected to do more work at home and at their desks in school. When they reach high school they will be required to carry text books as well as PE kits. Carrying heavy bags at school can put pressure on the discs between the vertebrae which can cause long term back pain in young and still-developing bodies. The long term effects from carrying heavy bags may include strains on the neck and shoulder leading to headaches, muscular pain, fatigue and an early development of poor posture along with strain to arms and wrists. Getting your child into good habits early on may help to prevent problems later.
Tips on helping your child to avoid back pain
- When you child is sitting at home try to ensure that your child does not let their low back slump. Try to encourage them to sit upright with their low back supported with a cushion. Support at the low back will help to align the whole spine and reduce neck and well as lower back problems .
- Whether your child is playing on the computer or doing homework encourage them to take regular breaks and get moving or stretching to boost circulation to help prevent a build up of muscular tension.
- A backpack is usually more comfortable than a bag that puts strain on only one shoulder, but even a backpack shouldn’t be overloaded.
- The British osteopathic association advise that children should never carry more than about 15% of their own body weight try and stick to this especially as they reach high school.
- Parents can help by packing their children’s rucksacks and making sure that the heavier items are nearer to the child’s back. Heavier items on the outside of the bag tend to throw out the child’s centre of gravity out of balance, which leads to bad posture and increases the chances of them straining their back.
- When buying a bag, buy a sturdy, well-designed bag with wide, padded shoulder straps that reduces pressure on the neck and shoulder area. Buy a bag with adjustable straps which can be altered as the child grows.
- Check your child’s posture after he has put the bag on. If you notice your child leaning forward or slouching, check if the bag is too heavy or if it has been packed incorrectly.
- Try to make sure your child is only carrying the items they need for school that day – remove any unnecessary books and equipment
- Shoes and foot health are also extremely important in avoiding knee hip and back pain. Over use of high heels, thin soled shoes, studded sports shoes or very flat pumps can all contribute to problems.
This information sheet has been compiled by Bedale osteopaths in conjunction with the British Osteopathic Association to give basic advice to help your child avoid problems.