How to help your children develop a healthy spine

As those of you who are parents will know, getting things right for your children early on often tends to pay real dividends down the line. Quite rightly, we try to raise our children to be kind, considerate, well-spoken and (hopefully!) well behaved. What we often don’t consider is their spinal health – after all, its widely assumed the back problems are associated with ageing, and represent more of an issue for the older population. This isn’t a great attitude to have, however, since developing healthy spine habits early on can prevent issues later in life.

 

Right now, spinal health is a big issue for young people

For some time it’s been clear that younger people are suffering from a variety of painful conditions which have come about through changes to our lifestyle over the last several decades – one of the most obvious is the so-called “text neck”, which is characterised by neck pain and a persistent “head down” posture. Indeed, A recent study showed that 79% of the population between the ages 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time—with only 2 hours of their waking day spent without their phone on hand.[1]

Whether directly related to text neck or not, in children and adolescents neck pain is the most common spinal pain typically reported[2]  with one study showing that as many as 60% of young people experience persistent neck pain lasting up to two years.[3]  These statistics are worrying – but when we take into account the fact that many young people have been relying on the internet for education over the last few months (and this may still be re-imposed) there’s a pressing need to educate patents on how to protect their children’s spinal health.

 

Three key rules for spine health

Thankfully, developing and maintaining a healthy spine is simple to do, and begins by understanding the three keys of strength, flexibility, and posture. Strength, flexibility, and improving your posture will go a long way towards reducing pain and improving your spine’s function, whatever your age.

Your spine is made up of bones (vertebrae), and spinal discs that separate each bone. If you look at someone from the side, you’ll notice that the vertebrae and discs create three distinct curves: the neck (cervical), mid-back (thoracic), and low back (lumbar). What you may not realize is that you began your life with a single curve, and the others developed as you began to crawl and walk as a child – it’s important to appreciate that the spine isn’t a fixed and rigid structure, instead, it changes over time – yes, with age, but also with use, or abuse.

As a baby, you had a single c-shaped curve – perfect for optimizing growth and development in the womb. However, once you began to lift your head, your cervical (neck) curve began to develop. Not too much after that, your low back (lumbar) curve formed as you started to take your first steps and walk upright.

The development of these curves is critical to posture as an adolescent and adult, and there are three key factors that support the development healthy spinal curves – working on each of these can prevent long term spinal health issues.

Strength: Strong core, shoulder, and leg muscles are essential to providing the proper support for your spine, getting regular exercise can help with this, and consultation with an expert such as a chiropractor can help you identify any areas which are weak, or where posture may not be optimal. Long periods spent sitting still inside are not ideal for building strength, so make time for play, exercise and outdoor fun.

Flexibility: Flexibility is necessary to maintain a full range of motion, which reduces your risk of injury – again, long periods of inactivity tend to reduce flexibility. A regular stretching regime can help with this, although full-body exercise itself also helps a great deal in this regard. Parents should be cautious when performing stretching with their children – some stretches can overstrain a small body, so play it safe and stick with passive stretches.

Posture: Strength and flexibility will help ease the stress on your back, as will focusing on the dynamics of your posture and being sure to frequently changing positions throughout the day. Having good posture reduces the risk of injury too – making exercise and stretching safer and more effective. Posture is an area which chiropractors can help a great deal with since over time, posture can deteriorate to the point where some professional assistance is required to correct it. If your child has a noticeable posture issue, it is prudent to have them see a chiropractor sooner rather than later. A short course of chiropractic treatment can quickly resolve these kinds of issues, as well as rule out more serious conditions, such as scoliosis.

 

How to get help

Developing a healthy spine starts when we’re young, and we all know the habits and actions we take today will affect our quality of life for years to come. Set an example and encourage your children to stay active, keep an eye on their posture, and promote activities that strengthen their spine to help support the development of great posture, and a possible reduction in their likelihood of experiencing back pain.

If back pain or postural problems are becoming an issue, take action quickly – see a chiropractor sooner rather than later. At Complete Chiropractic, we offer discounts for children and students, so if you need advice give us a call today.

 

 

 

[1] IDC, Always Connected How Smartphones And Social Keep Us Engaged (2017)

[2] Mikkelsson M, Salminen JJ, Kautiainen H. Non-specific musculoskeletal pain in preadolescents. Prevalence and 1-year persistence. Pain. 1997; 73:29–35.

[3] Aartun E, Hartvigsen J, Wedderkopp N, Hestbaek L. Spinal Pain in Adolescents: Prevalence, Incidence, and Course: A School-based Two-year Prospective Cohort Study in 1,300 Danes Aged 11-13 BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2014 (May 29); 15: 187

Blog by / September 16, 2020 / Blog

Dr Paul Irvine
Dr. Paul Irvine is a doctor of chiropractic who graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of NSW and in 1996, attained his Master of Chiropractic degree from Macquarie University in Australia. He practised in North Sydney for 5 years before he left Australia to travel and practise in the UK. He joined Complete Chiropractic in 2003 (est 1999) and took over the clinic in 2007