Most parents are unaware of common physical impairments that their children may be experiencing. Many adolescence and adult orthopedic problems tend to start at childhood and then manifest themselves after years of use on the body. For example, functional scoliosis often begins due to weakness in certain parts of the spine or pelvis. This can progressively worsen over time, leading to back and neck problems later in life.
Teenagers who experience neck pain or headaches have often had physical weakness of the shoulders occurring for a long time. This is especially noted in children with physical delays, premature birth and low muscle tone. Children with these conditions are most susceptible to orthopedic problems.
Here are some simple tests that you can perform to check your child’s physical health:
This is best done with your child being older than 4 years old.
A simple test for scoliosis
Have your child with their shirt off face away from you so you can see their back. Look for any abnormal curvatures of the spine to the side, or if you see one side of the pelvis up vs. the other. Have your child keep their legs straight and bend forward towards their toes. Look at their rib cage. Does it look equally round on both sides, or is one side higher than another? If you notice that one side is higher, then you should have your child see a pediatric physical therapist to have this checked out.
Check your child’s shoulder blades
If your child has normal strength in their shoulders and back, they should be able to hold a push up position. You should notice that their shoulder blades keep tight against the rib cage. If you notice one of their shoulder blades popping up from the rib cage, this is a condition called scapula instability. This means that the muscles are weak around this part of the spine and shoulder.
Scapula instability can lead to problems with the neck, back or shoulders later in life. A pediatric physical therapist can determine if your child has scapula instability and teach you simple exercises to help your child rebuild their strength in these key areas.
Squats can tell a lot
When children have problems with their back, hips or knees, a simple squat test done early can pick up on common weaknesses. Have your child face you with their feet about shoulder width apart. Show how you want them to squat, with keeping their feet flat on the floor and squatting down with their bottom stuck out.
Now watch your child as they perform the same type of squat. Do their hips shift to one side or another? Do they have trouble keeping their balance when doing this exercise? Do they have to use their arms a lot to stabilize themselves, especially when rising back up?
Any problems with this motion can show weakness in the hips and pelvis. Caught early, a pediatric therapist can identify what muscles are weak and teach you how to strengthen these areas. The results are much stronger hips, pelvis and spinal muscles that reduce the chance for injury from sports or activities.
If you have questions about your child’s ability to perform the above simple tests, call us today to speak with our therapists. Remember, catching a problem early can set your child up for great physical health in the future. Our goal is to help your child stay healthy and reach their full potential.