Last week there was a story on NPR about young athletes and back pain.
The story was about children who are spending increased time with one sport, resulting in overuse injuries, particularly back pain. With the added excitement of the Olympics this month, young people are inspired to compete and to perform to be the best they can.
However, repetition of the same active motion without balanced, strong muscle support can set one up for injury, regardless of age. If low back muscles are overused without the same strength of the abdominals (especially the abdominals on the side of the trunk), to hold the spine and rib cage in the proper neutral position, back pain can result.
Further, breathing patterns can be a factor. If a child can only breathe with his or her mouth open, or can’t breathe efficiently without using his or her low back muscles, this might indicate weakness of the abdominals on the side of the trunk and poor breathing mechanics. These powerful side abdominals have an important role in stabilization of the spine, pelvis and rib cage, as well as efficient breathing. If you suspect your child’s back pain might be a result of poor posture or breathing mechanics, try this test.
Position your child with his or her knees on the wall and hips and knees bent 90 degrees. Prop up the head with pillows and watch. You are looking to see if your child can breathe with his or her body in a bent position and low back muscles lengthened.
Signs that this is difficult include:
· raising arms over head
· arching the low back
· open mouth breathing with inability to keep lips closed
· yawning to try to get more air in
· overall difficulty maintaining the position
If any of these signs are noted, and your child is complaining of low back pain, he or she might have a low back overuse injury.
Back muscles should be used for stability and movement not overused for breathing. If a child can’t breathe without using low back muscles, he or she might need help with retraining muscles for breathing to relax the low back and decrease or stop back pain.
Our pediatric physical therapy specialist at Advance Physical Therapy has the special training your child might need. Call today!