How you move your baby in the first years of life play an important role in her spine development. And as your child continues to grow, you can prevent back pain in children with a little knowledge about how the spine actually operates and develops.
Proper alignment is not a straight line down the back. Instead, the spinal column takes on more of an S-shape when it’s when properly developed. So as your child stands and begins to walk, the old adage “Stand up straight” should be tempered with gentler guidance that follows nature’s way.
The spine of a newborn is shaped like the letter “C.” It’s this natural curve that your baby reverts to when lying down, tucking her knees beneath her chest, creating the C-curve that reduces pressure on her tender little spine and hips. Babies also digest their food better and regulate body temperature best when in this spinal C-curve position.
The next stage of spinal development occurs at the top of the spine, creating what will be the top of the S-curve that’s most desirable. It’s during this stage of development that you can help prevent back pain in children by encouraging neck and cervical spine movement to strengthen the upper spinal column. Play with your baby while she’s on her tummy for at least 30 minutes a day to get her to arch her neck and strengthen those neck muscles that support the upper back.
Crawl into the S
The bottom part of the natural S-curve develops when your baby starts to crawl. The cervical spine now is strong enough to hold the baby’s head upright as she develops her lower back muscles and moves into the S-curve with the lower back bending downward.
Babies continue with this spinal development phase until they are upright and walking, usually between 12 and 18 months. For the first two years, you want to allow your baby to develop naturally, giving her plenty of space and time to crawl and get stronger. Placing babies in containers or among toys that she can’t navigate can lead to misalignments and future back pain in children.
It’s rare for children to experience back pain, so when it happens, see one of the specialists at the Southeastern Spine Institute for tests. Something simple like muscle strain easily responds to rest and physical therapy. Other, more complicated issues causing back pain in children can be more serious, especially when accompanied by:
- Numbness or weakness
- Irregular bowel or bladder movements
- Difficulty walking
- Pain that keeps the child awake at night
Your spinal doctor will require a medical history of your child, a manual physical examination and X-rays to determine the cause of the discomfort. Common issues that cause back pain in children include:
- Infection in the spine
- Slipped vertebrae
- Stress fractures
Early detection is the key to successful treatment for children, just as it is for adults. When a child complains of back pain, don’t wait for the symptoms to ease on their own. Bring her in for testing. Her future development rests on your quick and determined action.