It is incredible to think that even children can get back pain but it’s true. At Sundial we did free half-term kids and teachers chiropractic checks in Brighton. 32 per cent of six and seven year olds get back ache at some time according to research by the British Chiropractic Association. This rises to 45 percent by the age of eleven. To highlight this issue the focus of last year’s BackCare Awareness Week, 17th-23rd October, was school children and their teachers.
One of the main reasons school children are prone to getting back strains is because they are carrying heavy school bags. Now school lockers are no longer available in most schools, children have to carry a bag with the full day’s books as well as all the other stuff that they need. Some kids carry all their books around for the whole week and then games bags as well. An adult wouldn’t put up with it.
Not only are the bags heavy they are often not very well designed. A hand strap sport type bag or book bag means all the weight is carried on one side of the body. A better option is a shoulder strap ideally carried across the body. The option, however, is a rucksack with both shoulder straps used and has been shown to reduce back pain by a third.
School Chairs Cause Back Problems
Schools themselves can also do more to prevent back problems in their students. Budget constraints mean that classroom chairs are often cheap and nasty providing poor support and no adjustability. If an adult was provided with a similar design of chair they would refuse to work in it for more than a few minutes with out screaming for a better one. Indeed, employers have a legal duty to provide a decent chair which is fully adjustable and supportive. Schools have no such duty.
Brighton Chiropractor Interviewed by BBC
The fashion of having children seated in groups around circular tables also adds to back strain some children have their back to the teacher and are constantly twisting round to see what is going on at the front of the class. Chairs that swivel would make this much safer. See an interview with Brighton chiropractor, Matthew Bennett by BBC Newsround on this issue here.
It is not just poor chairs that are associated with more back pain in school kids. The length of lessons themselves is also associated with more back aches. The longer the lesson the more aches and pains children reported in a study at the University of Surrey. Researchers visited classrooms and looked at what children were sitting on and how they perched on chairs as well other factors like length of lessons and how much movement was allowed. They found that if children sat in a flexed posture they had an increased incidence of low back pain. If the children did not move much and sat still they had an increase in upper back and neck pain.
A recent survey by Ofcom showed that computer game use and watching DVD’s has actually declined in teenagers it has been replaced by other screen based entertainment such as iPads and laptops to browse the internet as well as texting. In fact most teenagers do these things whilst also watching television. It is not just teenagers who are glued to screens, 40 percent of five year olds use an internet enabled computer at home.
But does this digital overload lead to health problems. Previously boffins in Scandinavia found that increasing television watching led to an increase in back ache in children. Certainly sedentary lifestyles have been associated with more back pain in children but does screen time also lead to obesity. The answer is maybe.
Studies are unclear whether gaming and computer use are one cause of obesity. Still, it is probably a good thing if children are running around rather than sitting around. Weak core abdominal and back muscles are more likely in children who get back trouble. It seems however, that you can have too much exercise if you are a child. High level sport and training is associated with more pain.
If a child does get a bout of back pain it will usually disappear in a few days. For a third of kids this doesn’t happen however and they go on to have longer term or recurrent symptoms. It is important to take steps to reduce the postural stresses and other lifestyle factors that can aggravate the spine and if symptoms are not resolving to get a chiropractic check up.
At Sundial we are doing free half-term kids and teachers checks and have reduced our treatment fee to £24, saving £10 per visit. For a video showing treatment of a six year old go here.
Top Ten Tips to Prevent Back Pain In Children
- Use a back pack and use both shoulder straps
- Ask the school if they have ergonomic chairs
- Don’t sit on the floor to play computer games, use a chair
- Don’t allow long periods of laptop use in a poor posture
- Limit television to 1-2 hours maximum per day
- Ideally use a PC rather than a laptop
- Set up the computer screen so the top is at eye level
- Consider a office swivel chair at a desk for homework
- Build in active games and moderate levels of sport
- Get a chiropractic check-up if back or neck pain persists
Troussler B et al. Back pain in school children: A study among 1178 pupils. Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine, 1994, Vol 26, 143-146.