Importance of Spinal Health
Children face many challenges to their spinal health. These challenges include: sitting for long periods of time, carrying heavy backpacks, bending over their homework and hunching over phones and tablets.
Teaching your child how to positively respond to these demands will create healthy lifelong habits and decrease the chances of developmental issues occurring in their growing bodies.
Chiropractors are spine and musculoskeletal system experts trained to assess, diagnosis and treat spinal health. Chiropractors are proficient at treating all age groups, including children, and can provide advice to help kids’ bodies function at their optimum level.
Children will encounter many physical stresses during their formative, growing years. The resulting problems in a child’s spine can occur at almost any point in their development and growth. Visits to your chiropractor can identify potential spinal dysfunction to ensure their bones, muscles, joints and nerves are working together properly, which reduces stress placed on ligaments.
Backpacks can place stress on growing spines. Risks include poor posture, distortion of the spinal column, muscle strain, headaches, neck and arm pain, and even nerve damage. What can you do to help your child?
- Choose a bag made of lightweight material, such as vinyl or canvas.
- Pick a bag that has two wide, adjustable and padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, a padded back and plenty of pockets.
- The total weight of the pack should not exceed 15 per cent of your child’s body weight.
- Never allow your child to sling a backpack over only one shoulder.
- Using the waist strap reduces the strain on your child’s back and transfers some of the load to their hips.
- For tips, load calculator worksheet, word puzzle and a colouring sheet, download the Pack It Light, Wear It Right Backpack Kit
- Video: Pack it Light, Wear it Right
- Global News Edmonton: How to pick a safe school backpack
As kids spend more and more time using devices, issues like text neck become real developmental threats. Use of these devices often reinforces poor posture. Associated risks include: headaches; neck and shoulder pain; upper and lower back pain; and sore hands, fingers and forearms.
- Limit or minimize the hours your child sits with their device(s).
- Kids are meant to move! Ensure your child is getting regular physical activity.
- When sitting, encourage your child to sit up straight with chest out and shoulders back.
- If your child must look down at their device, encourage them to tuck their chin into their neck instead of hanging their head forward.
- Make sure your kids stretch their hand, shoulder and neck muscles to strengthen their posture.
- Download the Stretch for your Tech Handbook for your child, which includes more tips, stretches and an instructional guide to making a stress ball.
- Everyday Chiropractic Blog Post: “Is Technology Becoming a Pain in your Child’s Neck?”
- Huffington Post Article: “Staring At Your Phone All Day Is Killing Your Back, Study Finds”
- Livestrong.com: Hand-Strengthening Exercises for Kids
Children involved with sports are developing injuries at a much higher rate than in the past. A lot of these injuries are due to repetitive stress and overuse, sometimes called repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). What can you do to help your child stay in the game?
- Ensure your child is getting enough sleep, eating the right foods and drinking plenty of water.
- Make sure your child does warm up and cool down exercises before and after every activity.
- Allow for adequate recovery time – this means, for example, when hockey season ends, wait a month or so to enroll them in hockey school or power skating.
- Encourage them to try a different sport in the off-season. Kids who play many different sports usually develop better coordination and motor skills than their single-sport counterparts.
Sitting & Slouching
Sedentary behaviour can create health risks that are completely avoidable including neck, shoulder and back pain, as well as tension headaches. Additionally, it may affect your child’s confidence levels. What can you do?
- Make sure your child is reaching the daily limit for physical activity. Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of daily activity for children and youth.
- Kids should not be sitting for more than 45 minutes without standing and stretching.
- Instead of continually telling your child to sit up straight, encourage your child to take responsibility for their health. Try placing a bracelet or tying a colourful string around your child’s wrist and allow them to remind themselves.
- Have your child do the stretching exercises in Stretch for your Tech Handbook, as sedentary postures and technology use postures can be very similar