I’ve noticed a worrying trend over the last few years.
My teenage clients are generally much stiffer, mainly about their middle backs, hips and ankles compared my 60-75 year old clients. This is usually in some way related to the injury which has caused them enough pain to need to come and see me.
Why could this be?
Most of my older clients come to me for treatment because they have always been active and wish to remain so as they advance in years. They moved more when they were younger and their lifestyles tended to be less sedentary, particularly as children.
By contrast my younger clients of today sit much more, this has been shown in many studies. Between long hours at school, homework and recreational use of devices, today's teenagers are generally much more sedentary which leads to joint stiffness and other health issues.
But what about organised sports?
Unfortunately taking part in regular training and matches does not help. In fact doing the same type of activity over and over can reinforce patterns of movement leading to joints able to move well in one direction but less so in another. Often overused muscles get tight and others weak. Warm up and warm downs are usually ineffective as they are not done properly despite the best efforts of the coaches.
What needs to be done?
To avoid overuse type injury during sports, as well as to avoid neck, back, hip and knee pain when sitting we need to encourage our children and teenagers simply to move more.
A good rule is 2-3 minutes of movement after an hour of sitting, 10 minutes every 2 hours and half an hour at lunchtime or evening. Movement can simply be a walk or if possible a few stretches as well. Of course it would help if the schools were on board and encouraged regular movement breaks. After school and at weekends it may be easier.
In addition to sports, all should be doing some extra exercises at home to maintain joint mobility, preventing stiffening and to improve strength. Simply doing 5 minutes of specific exercises each day, prescribed and demonstrated by our physiotherapists, can make a huge difference.
Which exercises are given depend on which areas of the body are stiff or weak, and this requires a detailed assessment beforehand. Specific individualised exercise has been shown to be more effective and less time consuming than general, generic types. These exercises should be reviewed and progressed every few months during the growing years.
Most of the teenage injuries I treat are preventable, it would be great to see fewer in the clinic. For more information, please get in touch.