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Around Our Town...To Your Health

Summertime Growth

07/01/2005 - It's summertime and more than just the flowers and vegetables are growing at home. Recently my son came up to ask a question. I did a double-take and realized he is having another growth spurt.

In my practice I see the effects of these growth spurts. Parents bring in their children who are having complaints of legs, back and shoulder pain. Although the child will deny that any physical trauma is causing their pain, I can tell that they are at a loss and somewhat concerned about their pain.

When cases like this present themselves, a detailed history is usually warranted to rule out diseases and conditions that can create similar symptoms. Once those are asked with no leads, I will ask if the child has had a major growth spurt. Have they noted their child's standing posture becoming worse? (That always gets an interesting response.)

Parents sometimes accept this posture as they accept the child's posture when they slouch in a chair (fig. 1). Unfortunately they cannot be held completely responsible (some teenagers are poking their parents saying "See!"). Postures such as the typical slouch, if not developed by poor sitting habits or standiing with weight on one leg, could be a consequence of rapid bone growth with the muscles, tendons, ligaments and even nerve tissue attempting to keep up. This will create abnormal stresses on the joints by the shortened muscles resulting in altered function, which could result in pain over a period of time.

Are there any clues, you may ask, besides the posture? Check their flexibility. Have them bend over and attempt to touch their toes. They will hump their back to accomodate their shortened muscles in the back of their legs (fig. 2). Have them bend backwards at the waist. They will bend their knees because of lack of trunk flexibility.

What about the leg pains that children have that will make them cry at night? Recent information suggests that this is possibly a form of sciatic pain and the nerve itself may be stretched or stretching. In reality it appears that the body is growing, but not in synch. (Have you noticed their feet — they can be 5 ft. tall wearing size 10 shoes!)

So what can you do to help your child through this? Start getting your child to stretch out. If you work out regularly stretch out with them. You can even watch something on TV together. If you don't stretch yourselves and aren't sure what stretches to do, talk to a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist. They can come up with a program to help start you and your child. Make it fun and not too time consuming — they will do it more willingly and hopefully reduce possible problems in the future. In the long run it would be worth it, to both of you.

Marc Delgadillo is a Chiropractor practicing in Casper.

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