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The New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association warns parents to be cautious about dismissing their children’s complaints as ‘growing pains’ and just a rite of passage, pointing out that the symptoms may indicate more serious conditions.
NZCA spokesman and chiropractor Dr Hayden Thomas says: 'We should be really clear about this, kids should not have pain. It so often gets brushed off as just ‘growing pains’ but we recognise that pain can be a sign of a real developmental or functional problem, and in some rare occasions a more serious disease process – a clear signal that all is not well.’
The NZCA warning follows reports in the UK media about a young woman diagnosed in her teens with growing pains who actually had an unusual early form of cervical cancer. It is also timely with the back-to-school burden that heavy backpacks and long periods of sitting can place on the developing spine and body. Parents of children under regular chiropractic care report a reduction in ‘growing pains’ and improvement in function after chiropractic adjustments.1,2
Dr Thomas says: 'Parents should consider taking their child to an NZCA member chiropractor for a check up to see if something is functionally or structurally amiss. Your chiropractor will adapt their techniques to suit the age and condition of the patient and may advise on other factors that can contribute to childhood pains such as hydration, proper muscular and skeletal development and nutritional deficiencies or stresses.’
Chiropractors are primary care providers who are trained to recognise other disease processes and will refer to the most appropriate healthcare provider if they suspect something more serious may be occurring.
Growing pains are cramping, achy muscle leg pains that may start as early as age three or four and may reoccur aged 8-12. They often occur in the late afternoon or evenings and may cause children to wake up in the night. They are probably not linked to growth spurts and appear to be more common after intensive physical activity or sports. They can be experienced for months or even years but eventually subside.
Dr Thomas says: ‘While it is unknown why growing pains occur, just because it may be common does not mean it is normal. Studies suggest that children who have growing pains may be more sensitive to pain, and more likely to have headaches and abdominal pain. Chiropractic care, along with home based interventions such as massaging the legs, stretching the leg muscles and placing a warm cloth or heating pad on the legs have all been shown to help.1,2,3
'We know that good posture is a key part of maintaining good spinal health, so we want to encourage New Zealanders to visit their chiropractor and make sure that everything is aligned and moving the way it should be. Your family chiropractor will be able to advise you on ways to improve your posture and ensure you have a healthier spine and a healthier spine is an important part of improved overall health and wellbeing.’
Dr Hayden Thomas explains: ‘The NZCA recommends having every member of the family checked by an NZCA chiropractor because regular chiropractic care can help the spine and nervous system to function at an optimal level, regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms. Doing the three-minute set of simple exercises recommended by Straighten Up New Zealand (SUNZ) every day will help improve posture, stabilise core muscle groups, enhance health and prevent spinal disability. It is also important to encourage family members to stand or sit correctly and to take frequent breaks to walk around and stretch if they have been sitting down for a while. This will help to stop muscles getting tight and strained, joints from becoming restricted and nerves from becoming compressed, irritated or fatigued.’
Straighten Up New Zealand is a simple, engaging spinal exercise programme, designed to promote spinal health. The Straighten Up campaign was originally developed in the US and is now being adopted by countries all over the world. The NZCA has developed a website to support the campaign. Remember that is always advisable to have any pain that is severe or not improving checked out promptly by your chiropractor.
For more information on the Straighten Up campaign, visit www.straightenup.org.nz. Further details on the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association can be found at www.chiropractic.org.nz.