Back Pain Solutions for Kids & Teens

by Chris Gellert, MPT on Sep 21, 2010

It is estimated that 60%–80% of the population will suffer from lower-back pain (LBP) at some time during their lifespan. One specific population that has received recent attention in regard to LBP is children and teenagers. Research shows that LBP affects children across the age gamut. And poor posture can be a common cause. Educating clients and parents of young teenagers about neutral spine can be a positive first step toward reversing LBP in kids and teens. It can also be a specialty profit center for your business.

An excellent way to educate both parents and youth about postural issues is to deliver a simple presentation at a school function or sporting event. Design a flier that lets people know you’ll be giving postural screenings plus fitness and muscular endurance tests (i.e., sit-ups and push-ups). After your presentation, offer to assess core strength using the four-point plank and side plank. You can also perform basic human movement sport assessments on kids doing activities such as kicking/throwing a ball or pushing a medicine ball from chest level.

Also consider using a plumb line for postural assessment. For standing posture, a plumb line—a cord with a plumb bob attached to provide an absolute vertical-line standard for measuring deviations—functions as a point of reference. Ideal spinal alignment depicted with a plumb line would show the line passing through the lobe of the ear, the shoulder joint and the greater trochanter of the femur, and then passing slightly anterior to midline of the knee and the lateral malleolus (at the ankle). Use of a plumb line will not only help you show postural deficiencies but also give you a perfect opportunity to explain that faulty alignment leads to undue stress and strain on bones, joints, ligaments and muscles.

From all the information obtained in various assessments, you can then design a structured exercise program that addresses postural imbalances, resulting in improved postural strength, health and wellness.

Another effective way to create awareness is to hold an open house at a local high school and invite parents, athletes and teenagers. Stimulate a forum for both awareness and discussion by explaining “weak links” in the human body and inviting the audience to ask questions. Then lead an audience participation program, during which attendees try common core strength exercises (on a mat), followed by a few simple tubing exercises that act to strengthen weaker phasic muscles.

Distribute handouts with clear imagery and evidence-based literature to the audience. This will strengthen your presentation and demonstrate your professionalism and dedication to safe, researched exercise programs. Most important, it will make people aware of your services and how you can help clients exercise the right way.

Postural Education; Strengthening the Core

Your clients will typically possess one of the following common postures: lumbar lordosis, thoracic kyphosis or swayback. By explaining posture based on science/biomechanics and the related research, you can initiate informative discussions during postural assessments.

Educating clients about the core is paramount. Anatomically, the core runs from the chest to the pubic symphysis (anteriorly) and from the scapulae to the top of the iliac crests (posteriorly). Stressing the role of the core and its effect on everyday human movement (including sport activities) is fundamental. Demonstrating simple static (in-place) ways of strengthening the core is key.

More detailed research is presented in the complete article, “Lower-Back Pain in Kids & Teens,” available online in the IDEA Library or in May 2010 IDEA Fitness Journal.

IDEA Fit Tips, Volume 8, Issue 10

© 2010 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Chris Gellert, MPT

Chris Gellert, MPT IDEA Author/Presenter

Chris Gellert, PT, MPT, CSCS, CPT is uniquely both a physical therapist and a certified strength and conditioning specialist with over 19 years experience as a practitioner and personal trainer. He ha...