Children go through massive changes during their teenage years not only physically but hormonally and emotionally too. Osteopathy and sports therapy can be very helpful during this stage of development, helping to integrate changes and balance the body.
Sporadic growth spurts can produce areas of mechanical imbalance/asymmetry or even highlight and exaggerate old injuries from childhood. It is common for one leg to be longer than the other, at this stage, which has to be accommodated by the spine and pelvis until the rest of the body catches up.
Posture is frequently poor during this phase of growth. Much time is spent sitting or slouching due to extensive electronic communications, homework and revision plus heavier school bags. This markedly increases the stress and tension placed on the developing structures, such as the spine, ligaments and muscles.
If such difficulties are left unchecked they may lead to pain and heighten mood issues, not great at a time when emotions are already running high!
By analysing, treating and managing their musculo-skeletal function we can, along with self-help methods potentially make a major contribution to ensuring that this inevitable process is a healthier one. (Self-help methods include practitioner prescribed stretching exercises, stress management techniques and dietary changes.)
Your teenager may complain of:
- Generalised aches and pains
- Neck and Shoulder problems
- Hip, knee, ankle and foot pain
- Shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand pain
- Problems related to orthodontic appliances such as headaches, face, neck and back pain
- Minor Sports injuries and tensions
- Digestive problems
- Inability to relax
Why do teenagers get aches and pains?
There are many reasons – often in combination! Most of the above fall into one (or both) of 2 categories – POSTURE and MOBILITY. Reasons include:
- Carrying heavy school bags
- Sitting on chairs at desks – one size definitely doesn’t fit all
- Increased sporting activities (and sporting injuries)
- Increased use of computers ( and computer games)
- Growing pains (muscular pain, osteochondritis)
- Poor posture
School bags – Often heavy and always carried on the same shoulder! Ideally they should only have the required books for the day – not the whole week, and be carried as a back pack. By the time the kids get to high school – this will be hard to change, so get them in good habits at primary and intermediate school.
Chairs & desks at school – There is little that you can do about this (one size definitely doesn’t fit all) – but how they sit is important as well. For example, slouched over and slumped to one side is obviously not good for growing backs. At home – an ergonomic chair for them to use with their computer, can help posture considerably.
Sporting activities – at a time when teenagers are growing rapidly, sporting activities become more physically demanding. This can make teenagers more vulnerable to injuries, and aches and pains. Get any injuries checked out. Muscle pain, knee pain etc can be due to growth spurts and specific exercises and treatment can help.
Computer use – Posture is a key factor here, – look at our ergonomic assessment page to see if you or your child is sitting correctly.
Puberty – All the hormonal changes and the growth spurts combine to make life difficult for the teens (and parents). But we may be able to help ease the monthly cramps, PMS and the growing pains.
Growing pains – Growth spurts make children vulnerable – bones, muscles and tendons are all growing quickly but not always at the same rate. This can cause muscle pain and pull on growing bones (osteochondritis).
- An example of this is Osgood Schlatter disease – where there is pain just below the knee at the growth plate of the tibia. Usually found in adolescent boys who do a lot of sport.
- Another example is Scheuemann’s disease – where the spine between the shoulders can curve forward a bit (this could be a reason why your teen is slouching) and the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the spine are having to work hard – and get sore.
These are big names to describe problems that usually sort themselves out, but osteopathic treatment with appropriate exercises and management advice can really help.
Stress – especially at exam time – the constant cycle of exams and school or college pressure are exhausting and stressful for teenagers. On top of these educational demands, teenagers also have to deal with varied social challenges. At a time when their bodies are undergoing hormonal changes and rapid growth, these stresses can lead to a build up of physical tension in the body. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including back and neck pain, tight and sore shoulder, tension headaches etc.
How Osteopaths and Sports Therapists can help teenagers
We treat individuals not conditions and will take time to look at all the factors contributing to a discomfort, strain or injury.
Osteopaths are expert at assessing posture and monitoring the development of the spine. Some adolescents develop a spinal curvature or “scoliosis”. Only the most severe of these require surgical intervention, and gentle osteopathic treatment and an appropriate exercise regime are often enough to allow children to grow with, and accommodate, such conditions. If a child presents with a spinal curvature that requires further imaging or referral, the osteopath will usually write to the GP or consultant with the clinical findings and details.
Maintaining good muscle tone to support the spine is essential, and our therapists encourage older children and teenagers to be as physically active as possible.
Our osteopaths aim to maintain good mobility and balance in the musculoskeletal framework of the body, using a variety of gentle drug-free non-invasive treatments. This can help to reduce tension and strain, and provide the optimum physical environment for the body to function and develop. Osteopathic treatment can also help teenagers generally feel better and more relaxed.
Our practitioners acknowledge that adolescence may present many challenges to the individual’s identity and self-esteem. The teenage brain is sensitive to oxytocin, a neural hormone, which (among other things) makes social connections in particular more rewarding. In turn, the teenager can react to peer exclusion much as they respond to threats to physical health or food supply.
Our Clinic and treatment provides a safe environment where the adolescent can relax. Our practitioners understand that body image can be a sensitive subject for some teenagers and any treatment can be easily applied through clothing.
Techniques used in adolescents include gentle soft tissue massage, joint articulation, gentle (cranial and biodynamic) techniques, and on occasion, joint manipulation. All techniques used are dependent on parental consent and on feedback from the teenage patient to ensure their safety and comfort.
Teenagers often find cranial osteopathy treatment in particular very relaxing and often report that they sleep better after treatment. Also it sometimes helps to be able to talk openly to someone outside of the normal family and social environment.
What to do now ……
If you’ve come to this website looking for help, then don’t in silence suffer any longer.
Contact us immediately on 01462 811006 for a consultation and let’s assess your condition.
At the assessment, we’ll take some details from you and build your case history. We’ll discuss why you’ve come to see us and where you have any aches and pains. Then we’ll examine you with the aim of giving you the appropriate treatment.
This will take a little while to complete, but it’s a necessary part of the ethical guidelines we work to. The guidelines are there to make sure everything is done professionally and to a high standard of patient care. I’m sure you agree that’s a good thing!
If you have any questions about what we do and how we do it, call us on 01462 811006 or use the contact form below – and we’ll be happy to help.