The theme for this year’s BackCare awareness is back pain in children. Back pain is not reserved just for adults. Estimates suggest that between a quarter of UK school children now suffer from back pain.
Many children today are becoming relatively more sedentary. National guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day for children and teens but the majority of young people do not meet that goal. Spending excessive time engaging in sedentary behaviours, such as watching TV, playing video games and other screen time activities contributes to the problem.
With all this in mind getting active will therefore greatly help many back problems, however what many of us as practitioners overlook is the importance of our balancing and co-ordination skills.
Think of our body as a building, the foundations of which are our feet. How many of us as adults and children could stand on one leg easily without wobbling or falling over or having to hold onto something? By that I mean having a relaxed foot - no clawing of the toes, no pulling funny faces or gripping of our hands etc. I discovered recently while doing a very slow mindfulness walking meditation that the balance part of it was quite tricky and that my feet were really having to work hard to support me walking at such slow speed.
Similarly I’ve seen athletes who can perform high level activities at speed, but once you slow them down and get them to balance its a completely different picture.
So, why should we start by looking at our feet as foundation... well if we have dodgy foundations the rest of the building will be poor e.g. we’re likely to try and accommodate for that in other parts of the body and our back is an area that can be affected.
From recently doing a JEMS (Joanne Elphinstone Movement) course I have come to fully realise the importance of the foot and its ability to have good sensation awareness from our feet. The importance of finding where we are on our feet: are we equally balanced, can we feel through both feet and which part of the feet is our centre of gravity going through. However, what I also learnt is the importance of the sensory nervous system in getting our body’s to feel a difference and the effect that has on our posture. What was a revelation it was giving patients the right cues to get them to explore their movement, to find the speed at which a change could occur, and some of the methods of affecting it. For example using Swiss gym balls in relatively easy functional positions and what fun it was……No I don’t mean standing on a ball! It made me realise if it’s speedy in adults how much easier it should be with children, with their ever developing systems and their fertile imaginations.
I am now using some of the techniques with my patients and I’m so looking forward to doing the next parts of the course in November for more ideas, thank you Joanne Elphinston of Elphinston Performance Ltd for awakening my nervous system!
If you would like to know more about back pain in children please contact us.
Elphinston, J. (2013) Stability, Sport and Performance Movement – Practical Biomechanics and systematic Training for Movement Efficacy and Injury Prevention 2nd Edition, Lotuns Publishing California USA.