Back pain is rare in very young children because they naturally have good posture. Nobody has to tell them to ‘sit up straight’ or show them how to walk correctly. They instinctively sit, stand and move about in a relaxed and comfortable way.
Unfortunately, as they grow older bad habits creep in. By the time they reach their teens, nearly half of UK children will suffer occasional aches and pains in their backs, not through injury or medical conditions, but simply from bad posture and putting undue strain on their spines. Many will go on to experience back pain throughout their adult lives.
If your child complains of back pain – especially if it is severe, sudden or persistent – you should seek medical advice in case your child has a condition that needs expert treatment.
If there is no obvious cause for the pain, and it eases after a short time, don’t try to make your child rest any more than normal. The best treatment is gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming, which will strengthen the muscles without putting too much pressure on joints.
Prevention is always better than a cure – here are some things you can do to reduce the chances of back pain occurring:
Set a good example. Children copy adults so think about your own posture and movements, especially when bending or lifting. There’s not much point in telling a child he or she shouldn’t bend down from the waist to pick up something from the floor if that’s exactly what you do. Showing a child how to perform a task while explaining why that is the best method will make the lesson easier to remember – for both of you!
Check their bags. Many secondary schoolchildren have back pain caused by carrying heavy bags incorrectly. Choose a well-fitting backpack and make sure your child is wearing it over both shoulders so the weight is evenly distributed. If a backpack seems too heavy find out if they really need everything they’ve packed into it.
Watch their weight. Overweight children are more likely to develop back pain – another reason to encourage healthy eating and exercise.
Remember they’re growing! The heights of chairs, desks and tables where children spend time playing, using a computer or doing homework need to be adjusted as they grow taller. Furniture that was the right size for an eight-year old could be forcing a twelve-year old to adopt an uncomfortable position.