Back Pain In Youth
Students in pain
Recently, we had students from Scots College come in as part of their work experience to get insight into our industry and we got to talking about posture and movement (as we always do at ONI). I asked the boys if they’ve felt back pain before as it’s so often linked to how we move and most said they experience it frequently. They’re aged 15-17.
While this isn’t a surprise for us in this field, it can be for most people who are used to associating pain with age.
In reality, it’s not a “I’m just getting old” thing. It’s affecting the youth as well.
Posture and movement related?
This study in Poland found that among 1089 respondents (aged 10-19), 830 (76.2%) admitted that they had experienced back pain within the year preceding the study. The research revealed that physical work and long-lasting sedentary position were the main situations in which back pain occurred.
“It is interesting that over 78% of the respondents did not take up any action eliminating or mitigating back pain. It is also disturbing that a big group of respondents tried to mitigate the existing pain with over-the-counter painkillers. These observations are also confirmed by Burton et al., who concluded that only 15% of the subjects asked a physiotherapist or doctor for help.” - Epidemiology of Back Pain in Children and Youth Aged 10–19 from the Area of the Southeast of Poland
What can be done?
There is a strange phenomenon that exists worldwide (not just with us Kiwis), where dysfunction and pain have been normalised and become part of our lives, as if it’s “just how it is”. But we can be doing so much more, especially knowing that the majority of back pain can be prevented.
Remember: we know that back pain is predominantly mechanical, meaning it can be treated effectively with movement and physical therapy (the Mckenzie method being a popular approach used by physiotherapists).
It’s not just in school systems by the way, but there is a tendency to put so much emphasis on training the mind that sometimes we forget the body and how intimately linked they both really are. Physical training isn’t really just about ‘physical’ health. Your mind moves the body.
Teaching proper movement and control as a foundation prevents movement dysfunction (which is the main cause of the tension and pain we commonly see). ‘Training’ isn’t about lifting as much weight as you can. It’s about training the mind and the body to work in harmony, empowering pain free living and reducing the chances of injury for the rest of your life (provided you maintain that movement and control).
Physical training has even been shown to improve mental performance and health. It can be hard to motivate people to be responsible for their own wellness, the youth in particular perhaps, but in my experience finger wagging and fear mongering don’t work.
“Finger wagging and fear mongering doesn’t work.”
How many of us have been nagged the tired old “sit up straighter” or “stop slouching”.
I’ve worked with a wide range of populations now from school kids to office workers, obese, athletes, and more. The ONE consistent thing that I’ve found to be crucial for a client to be successful is this:
THE INDIVIDUAL MUST BE INDEPENDENT ABOUT THEIR OWN GOALS.
INDEPENDENCE IS KEY
Changing posture and movement is the same as changing anything else. Most of it is behavioural. As much as we might want to (especially as parents or professionals), we can’t do the work for the people we want to help. It’s their body. Their life. The individual must invest in themselves and take responsibility and accountability of themselves. As a coach, parent, teacher, or influencer of any sort, it’s our role to facilitate our clients, students, or children. Dictating their actions doesn’t work. The trick is in how we can guide them towards realising it for themselves, what they have to do to empower themselves.
It’s a simple recipe:
Support when needed
Do you have back pain or tightness?
Try the exercises linked below and get up and move around when you can. The exercises and self massage below work to reduce tension levels and unlock restrictions. If you need additional help, then please seek out a professional you trust (the links below are not made to replace a professionals individually tailored advice).
Below are some posts that may help:
Epidemiology of Back Pain in Children and Youth Aged 10–19 from the Area of the Southeast of Poland:
The Natural History of Low Back Pain in Adolescents:
Efficacy of the McKenzie Method in Patients With Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain: A Protocol of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial:
Effectiveness of the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy for Treating Low Back Pain: Literature Review With Meta-analysis: