More and more children are developing back complaints more normally experienced by adults in middle age.

Experts are urging parents to take action now to avoid long-term problems.

Holly Carron is not yet ten years old but already she is suffering from back problems.

The youngster is active and does plenty of sports and exercise but still has to visit a chiropractor every three months.

Holly suffers from lower back problems which can sometimes spread to a leg, leaving her in a lot of pain.

Her mother, Pauline, from Saltdean, Brighton, ensures her daughter does not overdo things but says any child should be able to enjoy themselves and run around without being crippled by back pain.

She said: "She has to carry quite a heavy bag to and from school, which I don't think helps, but my main concern is that she is able to enjoy herself.

"I take her to the chiropractor every three months or so for a check-up and see it as a routine thing to do.

"By dealing with problems now I hope Holly won't develop any serious conditions when she gets older.

"I encourage her to have a healthy lifestyle. What I don't want is for her to get older and spend her time slumped in front of the TV because that will probably make things worse."

Holly is one of a growing number of young people suffering from problems with their neck or spine.

Active children like her are prone to injuries and problems and chiropractors often deal with sports-related aches and pains.

But the real concern among chiropractors is the growing number of children developing problems in their teens which usually only affect middle-aged people.

They say the sedentary lifestyle led by many young people, a lack of exercise and the heavy book bags they carry to and from school are causing difficulties now which will have long-term repercussions.

Research carried out by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) found 29 per cent of parents with children aged 11 to 18 said their child had complained of backache and 38 per cent were concerned about their child's posture.

Chiropractors believe a third of their adult patients have problems which began in childhood and they would not be in pain now if they had been properly treated at the time.

Matthew Bennett, a chiropractor based at the Sundial Clinic in Brighton, said hours spent slumped in front of a computer or carrying a bag to school that was too heavy was enough to damage a child's spine and make the youngster vulnerable to further injury.

Thirty-eight per cent of parents taking part in the research said their children spent five or more hours a week using a PC and 56 per cent said their child carried a heavy schoolbag.

In the past, children would leave their books in their desk or a locker but now they generally have to carry them around.

It is estimated that the average school bag would be equivalent to an adult carrying a 26lb backpack for most of the working day.

Specialists believe things are so serious back checks should become as routine for children as going to the dentist.

They say modern lifestyles and a lack of regular exercise accounts for the increase in cases.

Dr Bennett said: "Things have been getting steadily worse over the last few years.

"The usual problems are pains in the back and the neck caused through lack of exercise and lugging heavy things around.

"Ironically, some children also need help because they are overdoing the exercise and suffer from sports injuries."

Children's lifestyles have also led to more youngsters becoming obese which adds to spinal problems.

He said: "Because some children are not doing any exercise at all, it makes the back weaker and the joints stiffer which means they are more vulnerable.

"At the moment we are not dealing with cases of osteoarthritis in children but if the problems they have now are not treated then this could develop in later years.

"This is why we are saying children should have regular check-ups."

Dr Bennett, who has been a chiropractor for 15 years, says the clinic where he is based deals with between 20 and 30 children a week.

He said: "That is a pretty high number considering we are just one clinic out of many in Sussex and a clear indication that something needs to be done."

More than a million people in Britain are officially disabled by back pain and five million consult a doctor about back problems every year.

The condition already costs the NHS £500 million a year, with 180 million working days lost because of it.

The true incidence of back pain among teenagers has not been studied intensively, although some estimates put it as high as 50 per cent.

However, a study by doctors in Finland, published in the British Medical Journal this month, found an alarming and continuing increase in the incidence of pain in the neck, shoulders and lower back among adolescents between 1991 and 2001.

The study found that among girls, 24 per cent of 14-year-olds, 38 per cent of 16-year-olds and 45 per cent of 18-year-olds had upper back problems, with 12, 16 and 19 per cent of boys affected respectively.

The team from the University of Tampere suggested that increased computer use might be to blame.

Dr Bennett said: "If a joint doesn't move, it breaks down. If you sit in a poor seat for two hours or are stuck in front of a computer this will lead to stiffness.

"The joints between the vertebrae of the spine can seize up and become inflamed and sore in a child just as they would in an adult and this in turn leads to muscle damage.

"Injuries, even if they appear to be minor, should be taken seriously. If the children don't get the help they need they are storing up problems for the future. A joint injury will lead to osteoarthritis if left unresolved."

The BCA is offering parents a free check-up for their child at chiropractic clinics during half-term.

More details are available on 01273 774114 or 0118 950 5950.