Healthy Perspective by Chirs Fissel

Teach Your Kids Early About Exercise and Potentially Prevent Low Back Pain!

We often don't think about low back pain until we experience it.  Because of the high prevalence of back pain, prevention seems sensible.  There is an association between childhood and adult low back pain, and the risk of low back pain is greater for people with a history of back pain than for those without (meaning that the likelihood of recurrence is high).  Recent studies show that the incidence of low back pain increases from childhood to adolescence, with up to 33% in children under 10 years of age, up to 40% by age 12, and up to 70% by age 15.  Despite these high numbers, there is no consistent data regarding specific risk factors, but if prevention of onset in early childhood can prevent future episodes, it seems like a no-brainer!

Regular exercise is recommended for prevention of disease and general health promotion.  However, the benefits of exercise also diminish when the compliance ceases.  For adults, it is confirmed that factors that lead to longterm compliance include the following: a sense of routine, limited interruption of daily life, family involvement, demonstration, education and instruction, follow-up with positive reinforcement and goal setting.  Perhaps the same hold true for our youth.

Recent studies in seven schools (in New Zealand), with 470 children aged 7 through 11, revealed low incidence of low back pain, but with an alarming trend toward an increasing prevalence.  The students were educated regarding "healthy spine" habits (basic anatomy, posture awareness, recognition of low back pain) and instructed in a few basic exercises to be performed on a routine basis (as in after brushing teeth or before bed).  The results showed no effect on the percentage of children who reported no low back pain over the course of the study (270 days), but the participants did  report  fewer episodes of low back pain (decreased from nearly 25% to 13% incidence) and fewer "first episodes in lifetime".  While none of the children missed school or sports activities, and none required referral to their medical practitioner, there is relevance to this study.  There was a lesser incidence of low back pain, both first-time episodes and recurrence,  for the group of children that were educated regarding the health of their spine and in completion of a basic exercise program.

Bottom line? Instill in your children at an early age that their spinal health is important, that it should not be ignored, as there is a high correlation between onset of back pain in our youth and recurrence throughout adolescence.  If you have questions about the health of your child's spine, contact your primary care provider, physical therapist (insert smiley face), or our certified training staff for a consultation!

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