Kids as young as four suffering joint pain amid surge in obesity

By Staff

Young children are going to the doctors complaining of joint pain because of an issue that experts say could be prevented. Data from recent analysis shows that girls are more likely to develop musculoskeletal issues than boys, with girls as young as four seeking medical help.

Obesity has been highlighted as the main cause of joint pain, often found in knees, which can cause children to move less and make the problem worse. As part of the study, Academics from Queen Mary University of London focused on one area in north-east London to explore the links between obesity and musculoskeletal health in children.

The NHS says children and young people aged five to 18 should aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity a day across the week. For toddlers, they should be getting three hours of physical activity each day.

Post-pandemic, there has been a surge in obese children. Now, one in six Year Six children going into high school are obese or severely obese, up from one in five.

Using data from the national child measurement programme (NCMP), the team analysed around 120,000 children. Of the reception-age children, 8.9 per cent of boys were obese compared to 7.1 per cent of girls. Of the obese year six children, 19.9 per cent were boys and 14.4 per cent were girls.

They found three per cent of reception children and eight per cent of year six children had at least one GP appointment relating to a musculoskeletal issue, the most common of which was knee or back pain. Researchers said that recognising “obesity as a contributing factor for musculoskeletal symptoms may inform clinical management, particularly in girls”.

Reception-age girls considered overweight were 24 per cent more likely to see a GP at least once with a musculoskeletal issue, while those considered obese were 67 per cent more likely to do so. Obese year six-age girls were 20 per cent more likely to see a doctor with a problem.

Researchers have warned: “Poor musculoskeletal health during childhood has the potential to have a significant impact on quality of life, throughout childhood and continuing into adolescence and adulthood.

“Participation in some physical activities may be limited by musculoskeletal problems. In turn, increased weight has the potential to contribute to continued musculoskeletal pain and consequently children may experience a perpetual obesity/musculoskeletal pain cycle as adolescents and adults.”

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