Watching kids bounce off of each other and whatever is in their way frequently leaves adults wondering how they never seem to get hurt. However, the truth is that children account for a large portion of activity-related injuries, and kids don’t always heal the same way adults do. If your child is injured, the best way to make sure he or she heals properly is to work with a licensed children’s physiotherapy provider.
Finding a physiotherapist who specializes in kids is important. Children have some unique risk factors for certain types of painful conditions that a physiotherapist who’s not experienced with kids might overlook. For example, kids have cartilaginous “growth plates” around bones that allow for bone growth, and as they mature, the growth plates disappear. These growth plates are common sources of pain in kids, but a physiotherapist who works on adults might not be familiar with them. This could lead to a misdiagnosis and delayed treatment.
Physiotherapists often treat acute injuries that occur as a result of normal activities and sports. During the initial assessment, your child will describe their general activity routine, injury history, accident details, and the pain they are experiencing. X-rays or CT scans may be taken, and, if possible, range-of-motion and other movement-based tests will be used to assess biomechanics and identify potential sites of weakness or instability.
Few kids make it to adulthood without experiencing a sprain or strain. When we were kids, we got a kiss on the forehead from mom and (maybe) an Ace bandage before being sent on our way. While those treatments still have an undisputed role in healing, it turns out that they aren’t a complete strategy.
Sprained or strained ankles are among the most common injuries kids experience, and children who aren’t treated properly are at increased risk for future joint instability, arthritis, and persistent pain. In addition, kids who don’t properly strengthen the muscles and ligaments surrounding the ankle risk more serious injuries when they return to their normal activity levels.
Your child’s physiotherapist will evaluate the injury and develop a tailored exercise routine that will include range-of-motion, balance, and strengthening exercises as well as stretches that will prevent the area from becoming overly stiff.
Broken bones come in several types, and post-fracture recovery will vary depending on the location and severity of the break. Physiotherapy providers can help kids with broken bones learn how to use any assistive devices or how to replace slings.
In the early stages of healing, a simple exercise plan can be implemented to help minimize muscle loss. As healing progresses, exercises to increase range-of-motion and strength will be added. Importantly, a physiotherapist will make sure that the bone is healing properly.
Concussions are very scary, for children and parents alike. After the initial medical treatment, a physiotherapy provider can be instrumental in monitoring your child’s progress over time and identifying red flags. A physiotherapist will develop a graduated return-to-play protocol, where stages of rehab are associated with a specific set of functional exercises.
Concussions are often associated with vestibular injuries, which manifest as dizziness, visual or hearing disorders, and/or altered coordination/motor control. Vestibular physiotherapy is among the most effective treatment options for regaining normal vestibular control after a head injury.
Acute injuries aren’t the only conditions that physiotherapy can improve. Growing pains, as many of us may remember, can be incredibly uncomfortable and prevent kids from participating in the activities they love. Although kids who are highly active often have more growing pains than less active kids, growing pains also affect kids who aren’t highly active.
Many developmental abnormalities can also be improved with physiotherapy. A physiotherapy provider can create a stretching and exercise program that is specifically designed to reduce pain and inflammation, prevent further damage or deformation, and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is among the most common causes of heel pain in children and adolescents. Repetitive stress to the heel (or calcaneus) leads to inflammation in the heel’s growth plate.
In extreme cases, Sever’s disease can require several weeks of rest, which is why it’s important to address complaints of heel pain right away. Caught early, physiotherapy can identify sources of biomechanical instability and provide stretches and exercises that can reduce and prevent pain.
Osgood-Schlatter disease (OSD) is one of the most common causes of knee pain in adolescents. It’s caused by inflammation at the growth plate that covers the shinbone (tibia). With repetitive motion, the growth plate and the overlying patellar tendon (which attaches the tibia to the kneecap) become inflamed and painful.
Physiotherapy exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee will reduce the amount of tension placed on the growth plate.
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is an abnormal curvature of the spine that develops in children who are 10 years or older, and back pain is very common. Traditionally, surgery and braces were the only ways to treat AIS, but physiotherapy has become a first-line treatment for most cases of AIS.
Catching and treating AIS early can prevent further curving and may help straighten the spine, which can substantially improve the outcome and may even prevent the need for surgery.
The benefits of physiotherapy for children go beyond simple physical exercises. Physiotherapy can improve mental health and cognitive ability, especially in kids who are impatiently recovering from an injury. An exercise and stretching regimen gives kids some control over their healing, preventing them from feeling helpless.
As kid’s athletic programs become more intense, physiotherapists provide an important check on over-training. Overuse injuries can be career-ending, and fatigue associated with over-training can negatively affect academic performance and other extracurricular activities.
If you have an active child, you may want to consider “prehabilitation ” for them. Prehab is an injury prevention program that identifies areas of muscle/joint weakness, asymmetry, or instability and strengthens them, which substantially reduces the risk for injury.
To learn more about how physiotherapy can help your child stay healthy and active, contact Skye Health today.