Young boy in yellow shorts is playing outside with his golden retriever.

How Childhood Habits Can Affect Chronic Pain

Though children sometimes seem indestructible — bouncing back from illness and injury more quickly than the grownups around them — their growing bodies are, in fact, susceptible to pain. And behavior patterns they establish now could prevent more serious suffering later in their lives.

Here are some things to stay aware of to help children avoid chronic pain, especially at the beginning of a new school year. 

Overburdened by Backpacks

If your child regularly uses a backpack, improper adjustment can cause aches and pains in their shoulders, neck, and spine. Keep these things in mind while packing them up for the day:

  • Weigh the bag and its contents carefully. Altogether, the pack should weigh only 10 to 15 percent of a child’s body weight. Extra books can be carried in their arms, if necessary. 
  • Make sure the bag has two straps, and that both are secured over the child’s shoulders, so that the pack rides high between their shoulder blades and does not drop below their waist. 
  • Consider a rolling backpack/suitcase if that suits their style and will help make maneuvering easier. 

Keep Them Moving 

Everyone benefits from regular physical activity, but especially children. “Exercise leads to improved motor skills (such as hand-eye co-ordination), better thinking and problem-solving, stronger attention skills and improved learning,” according to About Kids Health. “Not surprisingly, these all combine to benefit school performance.”

Getting into the habit of physical activity now may also help prevent chronic pain later. Besides the other general health benefits of exercise,  Utah State University Heart Extension also reports that “Physical activity reduces chronic pain by building muscle strength and flexibility, reducing fatigue, reducing pain sensitivity, and reducing inflammation.”

Sedentary school schedules, a reduction in physical education or recess, and the appeal of video games and tablet time may make it challenging to get a child active, however. But combatting these trends doesn’t require a grueling sports schedule. “Every time you and your child throw a softball, swim a lap, climb a flight of stairs, walk to the store, or carry packages, your health and fitness levels are improving,” reminds Parents magazine

Even 10-30 minutes a day of helping with outside chores, climbing on a playground, or running through a homemade obstacle course can make a positive impact. 

But Warm Them Up, First

Though little ones might be eager to dive right into physical activity, Harvard Health cautions against doing so. This is because sending “cold” muscles into abrupt action can cause injury, due to a lack of blood flow or proper oxygen. 

Before sending them into the pool, onto the trampoline jump zone, or across the ball field, give kids a quick warm-up to elevate their heart rates and move joints and muscles through a basic range of motion. NerdFitness recommends some of the following for adults, but they can work for children too:

  1. Marching in place while swinging arms
  2. Jumping or walking jacks
  3. Arm circles and shoulder shrugs
  4. Hip rotations (like stepping over a fence) or hip circles (like you’re hula hooping)
  5. Squats or lunges

All of these elements in combination can help prevent injury and more complex chronic pain issues later in life. Though a child may not yet suffer from the same causes for pain that you do, we’re still here to help (and especially so if they are experiencing pain). Schedule an appointment with us online or call 770-929-9033 to investigate any pain they are suffering, or discuss an individualized plan for prevention.