BACK at School

Helping to avoid back pain in young people

Over the last few years we have found an increasing number of school children, teenagers and university students coming for treatment complaining of back and neck pain. One of the major factors in the development of these problems seems to be carrying bags of books and equipment that are just too heavy. The problem is often compounded by them carrying their bags on one shoulder causing an uneven loading on the spine. Research shows that alarmingly 50% of children and young people will have experienced low back pain by the age of 14. It is clear that the everyday physical demands of school life, combined with sedentary lifestyles and poor posture are contributory factors.

So what can you do to help make sure that you avoid back problems now and in later life? Here are some top tips on how you can help to avoid back pain:

  • Use a backpack with two padded shoulder straps and individual compartments so heavy items won’t move about when carrying them.
  • Never carry a bag on one shoulder – if you don’t want to put the bag on your back try carrying it in front of you holding it close to your chest.
  • Pack heaviest items into backpack first so they are carried lower on your body.
  • Keep weight in the backpack to a minimum by not carrying unnecessary items. The total weight of your backpack should never be more than 10% of your body weight.
  • Try not to keep your bag on your back if you are standing still­ take it off and put it on the ground or a bench.
  • Try to walk upright – if you bend forward when walking then your backpack is too heavy!
  • Don’t swing your bag round to put it on as it can cause damage to your back or shoulder muscles. When picking up a heavy bag from the floor, bend your knees and squat down, lifting the bag close to your body. This lessens pressure on your spine.
  • Don’t sit at a computer for more than 20 minutes at a time without taking a break.
  • Try to keep active – it’s recommended that children do at least an hour of physical activity a day as strong muscles will help prevent poor posture and back pain. Rather than spending hours watching TV or playing computer games do something active such as playing a sport, cycling, swimming or just going for a walk with friends.