Dr Nidhi Sanghvi Shah
Neck and back pain in children can have multiple reasons. "When a child complains of back or neck pain, it is a cause of concern. Long hours of sitting in school, incorrect posture while using gadgets, lack of physical activity are some of the key lifestyle reasons why children today are getting affected at an early age," says Dr Nidhi Sanghvi Shah, National Clinical Expert at QI Spine Clinic as she shares some common signs parents should watch out for that can indicate neck or back pain in children.
1) Constant slouching
Long hours texting, sitting, bent forward on a study desk and using the laptop can cause problems with the alignment of your child’s spine. This can cause a hunchback or kyphosis eventually leading to pain.
Tip: Ensure your child uses a laptop stand and sits on a high table and limit phone and sitting time. Help your child stay active by encouraging him/her to take up outdoor activities.
2) Visible swelling and tenderness
Swelling, or tenderness in the spine along with associated symptoms such as fever, unexplained weight loss, malaise, and fatigue may be non-mechanical signs. In all these cases, such symptoms at an early stage should be a cause for concern for parents.
Tip: Avoid suppressing the pain with painkillers. Consult a spine specialist before any kind of home treatment is sought.
3) Tilted walking posture or asymmetrical waist
Neuromuscular, postural or birth defects can cause slight deformity or tilt which progress to become worse over time. These are common symptoms of a condition called scoliosis.
Tip: An early consultation with a spine specialist can ensure timely diagnosis and an active spine rehabilitation programme can help reduce progression of the curve or tilt.
4) Pain between shoulder blades
If your child complains of pain between shoulders it is most likely due to sports injuries, inflammatory or postural stresses on the spine. This should not be ignored.
Tip: Regular check-ups with a spine specialist can help identify such injuries early.
5) Trouble sleeping
Discomfort or pain in a certain area of your child's spine can keep them up at night. Suppressing the pain with painkillers and sleep medication will only delay the treatment and make it worse.
Tip: Keep a pillow or knee spacer under your child's knees to ease the discomfort or pain. If your child is a side sleeper, place the pillow or knee spacer between their knees.
6) Fever or Unexplained weight loss
If back pain is accompanied by fever, unexplained weight loss or weakness it may be a sign of an infection or a tumour.
Tip: Do not ignore these symptoms in your child. These may be signs of a non-mechanical issue and help from a doctor must be sought immediately.
7) Tingling or prickling sensations
Tingling, twinges, numbness or needles can be sign of an excess pressure on your child's nerves.
Tip: A multidisciplinary approach to treatment with a neurologist can help your child overcome such issues.
8) Loss of bladder and bowel control
Back pain accompanied by loss of bladder function is a warning sign of something more serious. This should be treated as a red flag.
Tip: Sought medical attention immediately by consulting a doctor or spine specialist.
Frequent headaches may be a sign of a neck problem. If your child uses smartphones or gadgets or has wrong sitting posture while studying, you should visit a spine specialist.
Tip: Neck stretches and chin tucks every 30 minutes can help reduce such tension headaches. Use neck support cushions at your child’s study desk
10) Pain that radiates to the arms or legs
Back and neck pain sometimes manifests and travels to the arms, legs or even knees. This is usually a warning sign of something serious and needs to be investigated immediately.
Tip: If your child complains of arm, hip or leg pain try to probe for symptoms of back pain as well. Consult a spine specialist when you see any sign of radiating pain.
The author is National Clinical Expert at QI Spine Clinic