When we think of teen health, most people think of puberty, hormonal changes and mood swings. But there is a whole set of musculoskeletal issues that can arise in the teen years, because of the growth spurts, high levels of activity, high amounts of sedentary time, dietary changes and yes, hormonal changes.
With all the emotional and social changes happening for teens, as well as physical changes with puberty, it can be hard to know or recognize when there is something that needs further attention. So here are a couple of the most common teenage musculoskeletal issues, how to spot them and what might need to be done to help.
Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curve of the spine and is the most common spinal condition affecting adolescents.
The primary age of onset is 10-15 years old and occurs equally in both genders. However, females are 8x more likely to progress to a level that requires treatment.
Symptoms to look for include:
There are many different approaches for the management of scoliosis, ranging from chiropractic or physiotherapy care to postural support braces and surgery. The approach required depends on the degree of spinal curvature, measured from xrays. Minor curves are often able to be managed conservatively, but larger curves can impact rib movement and breathing, as well as overall posture and often requires a more intensive approach.
Osgood-Schlatter’s disease (OSD) is a common cause of knee pain in kids 10-14 years old, who are going through a growth spurt and participate in running and jumping sports.
During a growth spurt, the bones, muscles and tendons all grow at different rates. When the quadriceps muscle contracts as a child steps or jumps, the tendon connecting the kneecap to the shinbone pulls on the growth plate in the shinbone, irritating it and causing pain and swelling below the knee.
This can be managed with bodywork and relative rest, often including taping to support the irritated structures when returning to sport. If caught early enough, most cases resolve with conservative care.
Shin splints refers to inflammation of the muscles, tendons and bones surrounding the shinbone (tibia).
This can develop when repetitive movements overwork the muscles of the leg or when there’s a sudden change to the frequency, duration or type of exercise. It’s most common with running and high impact activities. Often seen in school kids running and jumping on hard playgrounds in shoes not designed for running support.
There are a few factors that can contribute to the development of shin splints. These include:
While shoes are a good place to start and find support for shin splints, it is often the underlying biomechanics that are a bigger part of the problem. Chiropractic care assesses the entire kinetic chain, from foot, to knee, to hips and pelvis, even low back and core stability. This can help to even out the running technique and ensure that forces are being distributed evenly, not focused on the shins and ankles.
One last aspect of teen health that can sometimes be overlooked is food and teen’s relationship to it. There are often body image issues that arise in the teen years, sometimes leading to disordered eating and malnutrition. The teenage years are critical for bone and hormonal development, and lack of nutrients at these critical ages can have lifelong effects. Another aspect to teen food is there is often an increase in fast food consumption in this age group, often due to less parental supervision and starting to earn their own money. Teens who eat fast food more than 3x a week are 51% more likely to develop depression. Encouraging teens to eat regularly and nutritiously (easier said than done!) can help to set them up for a healthier life.
The teenage years are packed full, developmentally. With huge change in social, emotional, hormonal and physical wellbeing, it can be hard to know what is happening sometimes. If you have any questions about teenage development and how best to support, please book an assessment with our chiropractors to go through any concerns you might have.
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