Back Pain in Children

DNA Pune January 28, 2010

Back pain is becoming increasingly common in children. The problem increases from 12% in children of 11-years of age to 40% in children at 15 years. Heavy book bags and backpacks are often blamed for increasing neck and back pain in children. Our backbone or spine consists of 33 small pieces of bones – each known as a vertebra. Various muscles and ligaments tie these together. The flexibility of the spine allows movements of the neck and back in various directions.

The average weight of a schoolbag varies from 4-7 Kilos. This weight should not be more than 10% of body weight for a given child. Children hold and lift bags in various ways. Carrying a backpack over both shoulders is the best way of preventing back pain due to heavy loads. Girls and urban children report more pain due to heavier bags – this has led to a further observation that psychological factors are also a significant cause of back pain. Rucksacks are associated with more complaints.

Back pain often results from wrong sitting and standing habits. Such habits put a strain on back muscles and ligaments. One must always sit and stand erect so that ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles remain in a straight line. Couching while watching TV or computer and reading is a wrong habit leading to pain in the back. More the time spent watching TV, the more are the chances of getting back pain. Weak abdominal muscles with a paunch put extra strain on back muscles. Maintenance of proper weight is thus desirable. Exercise prevents and relieves back pain as it strengthens muscles of the back and those of the abdomen.

Back strain during sports or accidents usually settles in about four weeks. One must remain active as rest is detrimental to paining back. Although mechanical or nonspecific back pain is most common, it can be due to spinal diseases in a few cases. Back pain lasting for more than four weeks, awakening at night, back pain confined to a single area, fever, ill health, weight loss, stiffness, numbness in legs, and gait change indicate a serious underlying disease. One must see a doctor immediately if such complaints occur.

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