Child back pain when playing sport – What parents need to know

By Chiropractor Tom Greenway

Children today are spending ever increasing time in front of a screen and they love it. This coupled with the increasing risk of childhood obesity rates makes us parents keener than ever to make sure that our children are involved with regular physical activity.

As a chiropractor with a special interest in sports injuries – and also with three growing young children myself – I often meet parents bringing their children into the clinic concerned about their child’s posture. Often this can be due to lack of exercise.

However, when their child is a very gifted and keen athlete, they often arrive at the clinic hampered by various stages of back pain.

This then presents the concern “when does too much sport become detrimental to my child’s well-being?”

 Child Back Pain

A Swedish study as far back as 1991 suggested back injuries accounted for 5-8% of all athletic injuries and that low back pain was experienced in 46% of young elite athletes compared to 18% in the normal population. In some sports like gymnastics the rates are 79% and up to 89% in divers.

So why are the rates so high?

Well in a developing adolescent spine the bones or vertebrae that make up the spine are softer than those in the adult spine. This means that they are more vulnerable to the repeated compressive loading that athletes experience while they exercise.

Sports that involve a lot of bending backwards like diving and gymnastics have the highest rates of back pain. Sports that involve twisting like tennis, cricket and golf also have higher rates of back pain as do the contact sports like rugby and football.

 Tell-tale signs your child may be heading towards a back pain related sports injury

 Growth spurts: Children are most at risk of injuring their spines during a growth spurt, especially in the early teens around the time of puberty. This is when the spine is most vulnerable to injury. If your child is experiencing back pain during these periods perhaps consider reducing their exercise levels or intensity.

Posture: Poor posture increases the risk of muscular in balance and this in turn leads to the skeleton working less efficiently and thereby increasing the risk of injury. If you are concerned about your child’s posture, a chiropractic check up will both show and inform them how to correct their posture and feel more comfortable. And give you peace of mind without any accusations of nagging!

 Curvature of the spine: This type of spine results in more weight and compression going through the back resulting in increased pain and injury. You do need a trained eye to detect what is a normal and abnormal curvature, so any concerns about the shape of your child’s spine – get them checked out

 Exercises for children playing sport – which ones?

Better sporting technique leads to less loading on the spine, which in turn reduces the likelihood of injury. Make sure your child is professionally coached for their particular sport.

Back exercises are also a good way to help protect the young spine from injury. They can be divided in to the following 3 groups:

a/ Awareness exercises

b/ Stability training / neuromuscular control

c/ Dynamic strength training of the muscles in the abdomen and back

The most important thing is that any back exercises are performed correctly. At the clinic we can show your child how to exercise correctly for their particular body size, shape and stage of growth.

Our chiropractic and physiotherapy team are all used to working with kids, and know how to get ‘on a level’ with them for them to understand better how their body works.

If your child is experiencing pain while exercising please do not ignore it. In most cases it is easily fixed with advice, treatment and exercises. Children respond very quickly to chiropractic or physiotherapy and they can then get back to the activity they so badly need all that quicker.

To book an appointment call 020 8943 2424

Tom Greenway, Chiropractor and Proprietor of The Waldegrave Clinic

Tom Greenway, Chiropractor and Proprietor of The Waldegrave Clinic


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