Back Pain and Children

Back Pain and Children

Like adults, children can suffer from back pain as a result of a variety of lifestyle and sporting activities.  However unlike adults their bones, joints and muscles are still growing and the stresses and strains put on them can cause different problems than those suffered by adults.

If your child does complain of back pain, it is important to seek advice from qualified professional, such as an osteopath.  An osteopath will help to establish the cause of the problem, provide treatment and some exercises to do at home. They will also know if the condition is something that potentially requires further medical investigations and suggest appropriate referral.

Heavy school book bags and kit bags

Children are often required to carry bags full of books, PE kits, musical instruments and other equipment to and from school. In a recent survey ¼ of UK children were found to have back, shoulder and neck problems due to carrying heavy bags. A survey by the NHS found that children are routinely carrying bags that weigh 15% of their body weight.  The heavier the rucksack and the greater amount of time spent wearing them there is a higher incidence of back pain and postural changes reported.

What types of problems can be due to carrying a heavy bag?

  • Postural imbalances
  • Back pain (pelvis, neck, upper and lower back)
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Joint issues – shoulders, knees, hips, ankles, feet

How can parents help?

Investing in a good quality rucksack that the children wear on both shoulders ideally with a strap across the chest is a good start. Parents and teachers need to encourage children to think carefully about what books and equipment they are taking to and from school every day. Could some of those books stay at school in a locker so that only those required for overnight or weekend homework are brought home? Also during the day children need to off load books into a locker and only carry those items required for the lessons before their next break. Packing the bag with the heaviest items (such as laptops and heavy books) closest to child’s body, will also make carrying more comfortable and less likely to strain the muscles of the back.

Limit screen time

This is a suggestion that is commonly made for many different reasons. In terms of physical muscles and joints looking down to use smart phones, tablets and laptops for an extended period can pull the back and neck into an unnatural posture, resulting in pain often in the upper back or the neck. Placing limits on the time spent using devices and encouraging regular breaks may help to avoid problems. If your child has to use a laptop for homework, consider purchasing a separate keyboard so that the screen can be elevated to a height that allows him or her to sit up straight to look at it.

Regular exercise but how much is too much?

A sedentary lifestyle is known to contribute to the risk of developing back pain, as well as contributing to obesity. Regular physical activity helps to keep the core muscles that support the spine strong and maintain flexibility, which will help to avoid back pain. Encourage lots of active play, walking, running, swimming, cycling etc to keep your child fit and healthy.

Conversely too much of any one sport can also be a cause of back pain in young people who are still growing. If your child is playing a lot of one particular sport such as rugby or cricket these can put particular repetitive strains on their backs. It is important to get sporty kids assessed by a professional such as an osteopath if they complain of back pain.

Osteopathic treatment for your child’s back pain

Your child’s back pain may benefit from osteopathic treatment using gentle manual therapy in the following ways:

  • Holistic approach – osteopathy looks at the body as a whole
  • Correction of postural imbalances
  • Reduce pain
  • Strengthen/ stretch muscles
  • Restoration of health and fitness
  • Maintenance


Using gentle manual therapy an osteopath will help to resolve any stresses and strains that are affecting their body and relieve their pain. They can also provide lifestyle and exercise advice that may help to prevent the problem from coming back. Should there be any concern that the pain is anything other than postural strain your osteopath is trained to identify these issues and will make that appropriate referrals necessary for further investigations.

If you have any concerns about your child and back pain, other joint pain or muscle pain call Julie Boyd at Valere Osteopathy on 020 8444 6725 for an appointment or make an enquiry via the website or email


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