Tips to Keep Your Child’s Back Healthy

Every year, thousands of parents want to equip their children with everything they need for school. The ‘orthopedic factor’ is one of the main factors involved in making decisions about tables, chairs and backpacks. Which of the options will best protect my child’s back? Or which will do him or her the least damage?
 
So let us explode that myth right away. The type of activity and how the child does it has minimal impact on their spine and how it develops. Sitting is also an activity but it is very rare that an uncomfortable chair or a heavy backpack will cause scoliosis or a prolapsed disc.
 
However, physical activity does have a lot of influence on our children’s stability and movement muscles.
 
Not using these muscles leads to weakness and abnormal muscular functioning, which in turn causes all the major problems. It is vital to encourage your children to participate in school sports lessons and to engage in some sort of physical activity after school and at weekends, so they develop their stability muscles and adopt normal body postures.
 
There is no such thing as an orthopedic chair. A good chair should provide support for the back – particularly the lower back, and the child’s feet should reach the ground (or at least a stool). The child’s computer should be facing the child head on (not at an angle) and at eye level. However, the main problem is not the sitting itself but how long the child sits in front of the screen without moving.
 
Children spend most of the day sitting, whether in front of the computer or in class, and hardly move their bodies at all. Even simple games outside with their friends can contribute to bodily mobility and strengthen their muscles.
 
Orthopedic backpacks are also a myth. A good bag should be comfortable with padded straps. But here too the main problem is not the bag but what goes in it. The sheer weight of the books our children need to carry – even in the 21st century – can cause pain and other problems.
 
Instead of buying an expensive backpack and filling it with almost half the weight of your child, it is better to arrange for lockers in school, or to divide the children into pairs so that each only brings half the amount of books, or to lobby the Education Ministry to generate a real change in how our children study.
 
A trolley bag is a good idea for children who need to schlep a lot of weight and, contrary to popular opinion, pulling it with one hand has no detrimental effect on the child. However, sometimes having this type of bag encourages the child to put all sorts of things in it that he or she doesn’t really need, and that too adds to the weight. Pay attention to what is actually in there!  
 
Irrespective of the above, if you notice any distortion in the spine, it is worth taking your child for an orthopedic check between the ages of 10-12 to rule out scoliosis (the spine curving to the side). This condition is not a result of abnormal stability or bad sitting postures and we still don’t know the real cause. Nevertheless, any distortion generally begins to appear at the start of adolescence, when the skeleton accelerates in development, hence this is the best time to have your child checked.