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Screen Time, Teens, and Back Pain

There is a lot of talk about how dependence on technology and a more sedentary lifestyle affects the health of children and adolescents. Much of the conversation revolves around obesity and its effects on cardiovascular health. However, a new study from the British Chiropractic Association is looking at how this affects back and spine health in still-growing teens.

The study surveyed 460 parents with kids aged 11- 16 and found that 40 percent had experienced back or neck pain. Nearly a quarter of parents reported that their children spent between 2 to 4 hours each day watching television or using a tablet or computer. Spending long periods of time in front of a television or computer can lead to bad posture which is a common source of back and neck pain.

Thirty-three percent of the children played video games regularly, while only 12 percent participated in active recreation like riding a bike. Most alarmingly, nearly 50 percent of parents admitted that their children do not get enough exercise.  This lack of exercise gives way to weaker core muscles, which are needed to support the spine properly.

As this sedentary lifestyle increases rates of childhood obesity, it may also lead to increased rates of severe back pain in children and young adults. In fact, a 2009 study found that childhood obesity could lead to premature disc degeneration and other spinal abnormalities.

Luckily, there are many ways to reduce and avoid this pain. Parents can limit tech time for their children and organize healthy family activities to get their kids moving. Encouraging involvement in sports and other after-school activities also helps keep kids off of the couch and in motion.  Parents can monitor their children’s diet at home and encourage them to make healthy food choices at school. When parents lead a healthy lifestyle, it sets a great example for their children as they grow.