From an edited version of article by Karen Carroll, published in Chiltern Families Magazine 2011
It is common for many mums to suffer from back ache during their pregnancy and for the first few years of their child’s life. After all, we have to lift car seats in and out of the car as well as buggies, we lift our babies and toddlers in and out of cots, the bath, their high chairs – it’s almost commonplace for most mum’s to have some neck and shoulder pain, mid or low back pain.
It’s hard to think that our children might be suffering from mild backache as well. However, backache in school aged children is slowly increasing. Some children inherit a tendency to have backache or tension in their neck and shoulders but increasing numbers of children carry heavy bags around school, or sports bags from room to room. Our children also spend longer on the computer, or their games consoles and spend less time being physically active and playing outside.
Many of us have back ache because we have poor sitting and standing posture. This is particularly a problem at school, when children are sitting at desks not designed for their height, or they are taller than their friends and don’t want to be singled out by anyone. Carrying around a heavy school bag on one shoulder also poses challenges for the growing spine – and children don’t always want to have a rucksack that is ‘uncool’ or too different from their friend’s one.
Children often grow rapidly at certain points in their life – and this puts stress on the muscles and ligaments (the supporting structures for the bones) that have to stretch as the spine and limbs grow.
So just as adults have to learn to look after their backs, to stretch and exercise, so we have to teach our children good habits too. However, most children hate being nagged, being told to “sit up straight”, or ‘pull their shoulders back”.
Children, whose bodies are growing very rapidly, particularly around 7 to 15, may experience headaches or backache, especially when there are some unresolved misalignments of the skull, neck and chest. Girls who are starting puberty frequently experience headaches and backache as a result of hormonal and physical changes as well as ligamentous laxity. None of us like to take medication or give it to our children, so osteopathic treatment is used to help ease neck and back pain and headaches.
So how can osteopathy help?
Trained paediatric osteopaths have studied how children grow, how their bodies differ from adults and how to treat a child in a gentle way to help them through the discomforts growing pains, headaches backache, poor posture and how to help their body attempt to grow out of this tendency as it goes through the rapid growth of childhood and puberty as well as prescribe appropriate exercises and give postural advice.
Treatment of backache can involve some changes to diet, exercise, posture and lifestyle as well as gentle osteopathic manual therapy and the use of newer, highly effective modalities like low level laser therapy to reduce pain rapidly. Patients really benefit from not having to take medication or have days off school or work.