Reducing Low Back Pain In Children
Could a back awareness education program and a few simple daily exercises reduce the risk of low back pain (LBP) in children? Researchers in New Zealand think so.
In a study published in the April Edition of Physical Therapy (PTJ), 710 children aged 8 to 11 were divided into 2 groups: 1 group of 469 received education on "spine awareness" and were taught 4 spinal movements to be practiced daily, and 1 group of 239 received the education only. The programs were conducted in 4 schools, and monitored for 270 days. According to an APTA news release, the study is one of a "small number" of trials involving young children and LBP.
Researchers found that while both groups reported a reduction in LBP episodes, the reduction was greater among the children who received exercise instruction—down from 23% at day 7 of the study to 13% at the study's conclusion, compared with a concluding rate of 24% of the children who received education only. Children in the exercise group were also less likely to report a lifetime first episode of LBP and experience a longer time to onset of a first episode when one did occur.
The exercises themselves involved 4 simple movements that encouraged flexion, extension, and lateral flexion of the lumbar spine. Authors write that the exercises were designed so that "they could be completed quickly without supervision, were easy to remember, were enjoyable, and could be combined with existing routines to maximize adherence." Still, adherence did drop off over time.
The back awareness education program, called "MySpine," teaches strategies believed to keep the spine healthy and encourages healthy behaviors.
Authors write that "it is unlikely (although not impossible) that the 4 exercises in this study were sufficient to have a physiological effect," but they speculate that "it is possible that monitoring participants and talking about the spine … and introducing the concept of back care, movement, and spinal awareness confers some therapeutic effect."
"Perhaps vigilance creates opportunities for control," authors write. "By participating in the MySpine program, children may have been empowered to identify and adjust behaviors to reduce the risk of LBP."
Back pain does not discriminate and we are seeing a higher incidence of children experiencing back pain symptoms that can be easily avoided with a comprehensive physical therapy assessment, proper education, exercise and physical activity.
Let us know if you have any questions or concerns regarding low back pain in children. The best medicine is to prevent them from occurring.