Carrying heavy books in her backpack every day became a major problem for thirteen year old Katie. The weight of the load in her backpack exceeded the maximum capacity that she could support, resulting in serious neck and back pain.
While playing soccer, ten year old Ryan frequently hit the ball with his head to score a goal. He would often scramble on the ground for the loose ball, occasionally landing in an awkward position. His athletic activities led to a strain in his neck muscles and intense neck pain.
Katie and Ryan are real kids. But they’re far from alone. School children regularly carry far more weight than recommended for their frame. And while sports programs do try to minimize injury, physical sports always carry some risk. These are just a couple of the more common causes of neck pain in children.
Causes of Neck Pain in Children
Weight or Pressure on the Neck
Katie is just one of thousands of children every year who suffer neck pain after carrying heavy backpacks to and around school day after day. Since this is one of the biggest culprits behind neck pain in children, here’s a few simple rules to remember. Keep carried weight to 15% of less of the child’s body weight. Wear both shoulder straps instead of carrying the weight slung over one shoulder. Backpacks with a waist belt help reduce shoulder load — and reduce strain on neck muscles.
Ever hear “stop slouching” from your Mom or teacher while growing up? Well, the advice still stands. Children usually remain seated in a classroom most of the day which is bad enough. Keeping a slouched position makes it worse. But sitting at a desk isn’t the only time to be aware of posture. Remaining hunched over a video game controller, typing on a computer keyboard with the monitor in a poor position, or reading in bed can lead to severe neck pain.
Even sleeping can strain the neck muscles if too many pillows are allowed or an awkward position that keeps the neck at an unnatural angle is assumed.
Injury from Sports Activities
Active children like Ryan may suffer neck injuries during contact sports like football, soccer, and wrestling. Accidents like falling from a tree, bicycle, or skateboard happen every day. A muscle strain or sprain is pretty common, though if there’s any chance of a head or more severe neck injury a doctor should be consulted in case of a fracture or concussion.
We may not think of children as being stressed, but in today’s world children are under tremendous stress. They are under pressure to perform well in school. They must deal with peer pressure on a daily basis. Family and other issues often increase stress in a child’s life. Stress leads to tension which can result in a wide range of health issues including neck pain.
Neck Pain in Toddlers
Toddlers with their new-found walking skills seem to be accident prone. How many times have you watched a young child running along and they just trip over their own feet? Falling while playing can be a daily occurrence. But one of the most common causes of neck pain in toddlers is from awkward sleeping positions, especially in car seats. So make sure you child’s head is well supported whenever travelling in a car seat.
Treatment for Neck Pain in Children
When Sarah’s one year old daughter Emily became irritable and cranky, screaming whenever Sarah would push her head forward to dress her, Sarah sensed something was wrong. When Emily developed a fever and nausea, Sarah immediately took her to the hospital emergency room where she was diagnosed with meningitis.
The lesson here is to first of all rule out any medical emergency. Any severe injury requires prompt medical attention. Neck pain accompanied by swelling, numbness, fever, nausea or lethargy should be investigated by a doctor right away too.
For your child’s everyday garden variety of neck ache, here’s some ways you can help relieve the pain without resorting to dangerous drugs:
Apply ice to neck injuries as soon as possible to minimize painful inflammation and swelling. Ice or a cold pack should be applied for 15-20 minutes per hour the first couple of days after injury. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel and use a circular massaging motion to prevent frostbite.
Twenty minutes of ice followed by twenty minutes of heat repeated three times a day should bring some relief from even severe neck pain. Keep in mind that small children have a lower tolerance to ice, cold, and heat so spend less time with ice and heat and keep heat at a lower setting for the little ones.
Topical all-natural pain relief creams like Rub-On-Relief can also be applied to relax neck muscles and increase blood circulation. Since the ingredients are all natural and safe, children as young as two years old can use it for pain relief.
Finally, the importance of rest shouldn’t be overlooked. Childrens’ bodies are very resilient and neck strains and sprains will often ease quickly with ample rest.