A study in Physical Therapy (PTJ), the monthly scientific journal of the American Physical Therapy Association found that a program of regular exercise and education appears to reduce low back pain (LBP) episodes in children aged 8 to 11 years. The study is one of a small number of randomized controlled intervention trials involving young children and LBP. Several hundreds of such LBP trials have been conducted with adults.
Australian physical therapist researcher Julia J. Hill, PhD, and professor Jennifer.L. Keating, PhD, both of the Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Science at Monash University in Victoria, studied more than 700 children, aged 8 to 11 years, in 7 New Zealand primary schools during the 2011 academic year. They found that children who were taught about spine health and were instructed in 4 spinal exercises for daily practice, reported significantly fewer episodes of LBP than children who received spine health education alone.
Both groups of children received education about back awareness through the "MySpine" educational program. Children were taught strategies thought to keep the spine healthy as well as the principles that support recommended behaviors. In addition, the intervention group was taught 4 daily exercises designed to encourage movement of the lumbar spine.
The researchers hypothesized that if LBP in children can be prevented, the cycle of recurring LBP episodes may be delayed and the prevalence of adult occurrence may be decreased. Authors found that children in the intervention group experienced lower lifetime first episodes of LBP, longer time to the onset of the first episode, and lower numbers of reports of LBP episodes. Children in either group who had experienced an episode of LBP prior to the study, were much more likely to report an episode of LBP during the study.
Despite declining adherence to exercise across the study, both groups experienced a reduction in reported LBP episodes. According to Hill, "It is unlikely that the 4 exercises alone were sufficient to have a physiological effect. However, it is possible that through talking about the spine, being monitored, paying attention to the vulnerability of the low back, and learning the concept of back care, movement, and spinal awareness, children may have a strategy that can be used to control the influence of factors that increase the risk of a low back pain event."