Care for your childs back

You could prevent low back pain later in life, say South Africa’s physiotherapists!

* Matthew could not understand why he felt so terrible at the end of every
day. He was only 28, a fit man whose very physical job on a film set had built
him more muscles than your average gym-goer. Yet by the evening, the pain in
his back was debilitating.

When Matthew saw an orthopaedic surgeon, he discovered that an uncontrolled
back flip into a deep pool when he was a child had caused damage to his spine.
By the age of 33, Matthew had had to have an operation to fuse two vertebrae,
and he continues to suffer some pain to this day.

* Andre was only 15 when he suffered a catastrophic neck injury while playing
rugby. Unfortunately, neither the coach nor his fellow players knew how to stabilise
his neck, so Andre is now in a wheelchair.

* Emma is 18 years old. For her entire high-school career, she has carried
her heavy schoolbag the ‘cool’ way, which means dragging off one
shoulder. She does her homework sitting cross-legged and hunchbacked on her
bed. Now, as she faces the biggest challenge of her young life, her Matric exams,
which will affect her future career, she is sleeping badly because of back pain.

This year, during National Physiotherapy Back Week (8–12 September 2008),
physiotherapists will be taking a message to parents and children: caring for
your back now, while you’re in school, can bring huge rewards for your
back later in your life.

“We tend to think of children’s bodies as infinitely ‘fixable’”,
says Colin Hill, spokesperson for the South African Society of Physiotherapy
(SASP). “But while they are tremendously resilient, sadly, the most innocent
of experiences can cause damage that reverberates through their lives, as Matthew
found out. And the example we give of Emma shows that, while at school, you
can develop bad habits which will cause muscle spasm and increasing pain unless
treated professionally. That’s why it’s crucial to get children
into good habits of back care at an early age.”

What kind of ‘good habits’ is Colin talking about? “Poorly
designed school bags are responsible for a lot of strain on the spine,”
he explains, “as are bags which are carried badly. A bag should be rucksack-style,
supported by both shoulders, sitting in the centre of the back, with the straps
tightened to the right level for the child.

“Many children further increase the strain on their back with bad sitting
habits such as a slouched position over their desks, sitting on one leg all
the time, etc. We’d like to show children and parents how their children
should be sitting to support their backs properly.

“In addition, we’d love a chance to talk to schools about back
care on the sports field and in the gym! I know of at least one case where a
bunch of very young rugby players, taught by a physio how to correctly transfer
an injured person, were able to help an injured team mate and possibly saved
his spine.”

Physios all around the country will be phoning schools to seek opportunities
to speak, or setting up displays in shopping malls and hospitals. Do stop and
take time to hear their message - it could save a child from lifelong health


The SASP will also be offering children a chance to win a Nintendo WiiFit,
a great gaming opportunity to get started down the road to physical fitness.
The Slouch = Ouch Physiotherapy Back Week SMS competition will run from 8 September
2008 to 24:00 on 6 October. You can enter as many times as you like! The SMS
number will be 35545. The question is: Your spine consists of how many sections?
You stand a chance of winning a Nintendo console + Wii game to the value of

Issued on behalf of the South African Society for Physiotherapy


By Colin Hill


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