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Teenage growth spurts - when onwards and upwards becomes a pain

Aug 30, 2018
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Posted by: Emma
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Category: Blog

What can be done to help teens manage sudden or extreme spurts in growth?

tall boy

It’s that time of year where parents of teens despair at how their offspring have sprung over the summer and now need new shoes, trainers, trousers and, well, everything.  And all before they go back to school in a week’s time. 

A bit of growth over the summer break is to be expected but once children hit those teenage years it can seem like they shoot up overnight as they often experience amazing spurts to reach their final height.  Boys can add up to a whopping 9cm and girls are not far behind at 8cm growth in a year.   

Hands and feet the first to spurt

Interestingly, this growth tends to start at the outside and work in.  So, hands and feet are frequently first to spurt and then shins often grow before thighs and forearms before upper arms.  Then it’s the spine and finally a broadening of the chest and shoulders in boys and a widening of the hips and pelvis in girls.  All a very normal part of human development but growing at a such a pace can lead to problems: 

  • Tendons and muscles don’t grow as quickly as bones during this time so they remain inflexible and stretch until they become tight.  Which can lead to joint and muscle pain for our teens. 
  • Lack of coordination/clumsiness can become a problem as the teenager does not have the muscular structure to support their rapidly growing limbs and feet. 
  • The chances of having an injury increases during a growth spurt.
  • If the growth spurt causes pain then sufferers can set up low grade chronic problems by making musculoskeletal compensations.   

But there are some things that can help to ease the pain of this tricky period: 

  • Diet.  A balanced and nutritious diet is more important than ever at this time but unfortunately our teens are testing their independence and that can often include what they eat and when they eat it.  Skipping meals becomes popular – whether to earn themselves an extra 15 minutes in bed in the morning or because they’d rather play football at lunch time than join the queue for food.  But the physical changes they are experiencing often lead to an increased appetite so it’s important that they don’t fill up on unhealthy snacks, or junk and processed food.  Perhaps it’s a good opportunity to show them how to pull together a few quick and healthy snacks or easy meals?  
  • Rest.  No teen responds well to the idea of an early night but adequate rest is so important to support this extensive growth.  Our young people need at least 8 ½ to 9 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.  Yet one study found that only 15% of teens reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights!! 
  • Exercise.  It seems that today’s teens can amuse themselves for hours in front of a screen (don’t even get us started on the postural issues that can cause!) but regular weight bearing exercise (running, dancing, walking etc) is important for maximising the mass and strength of bones throughout puberty and optimising bone health in later life.   

In addition, if your teen is suffering from aches and pains it can be well worth popping along to an osteopath or physiotherapist for a check-up.  At Brixton Therapy Centre we have a team of experts who can undertake a musculoskeletal check for your teen and provide tailored advice on exercises including stretches, core stability movements and balance training that could help ease your teen’s journey to adulthood.  And in September there’s 30% off these appointments for teenagers.  Making them great value at just £49.  So why not get in touch?  Just quote SeptemberTeen. 
 
 

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