It’s a worrying fact that more and more children and young people are experiencing back and neck pain. Recent research shows that 72 per cent of primary aged children and 64 per cent of secondary aged pupils have experienced back and/or neck pain in the past year.
Back pain in children is becoming more common but it should never be considered normal. All episodes of back pain lasting more than two weeks should be reported to a GP.
Back pain is a rising problem, causing great concern. It is often under-reported and multifactorial in cause. While talking with patients during treatment sessions, physiotherapists gain an insight into the situations pupils feel contribute to their pain and they include sitting on the floor in class groups and assemblies, uncomfortable school furniture, working at computers and carrying heavy bags in the absence of lockers.
As a society we have become increasingly sedentary. ICT now plays a huge part of in our children’s lives both at school and at home. However, very little consideration is given to the postures children frequently adopt: sitting using handheld mobile devices, working at laptops whilst sitting on the floor, sitting on one-size-fits-all furniture (11-year-olds can vary in height by a metre), spending more time sitting in the car going to structured activities and to/from school because of safety fears.
For younger children, there is less opportunity to simply play and develop the strong core muscles they need to maintain a healthy spine. The spine is a vulnerable structure as it needs to provide strength to keep us upright, but also flexibility to help us move. This helps explain why it is prone to damage.
Back pain is the leading cause of sickness absence from work. According to the back care charity website BackCare.org.uk, back pain costs the UK economy £37m every day.
There has been a significant increase in the number of students showing signs of musculoskeletal disorder, with many requiring NHS treatment and taking medication. Almost all of these problems can be attributed to the dramatic rise in the use of computers, smartphones, games consoles and iPad-style tablet devices.
Studies show that children who suffer back pain are four times more likely to experience it as an adult. Prevention through the formation of good, healthy habits early on is essential. We need to make sure that children’s backs are fit for the future.
Poor posture when working and relaxing with technology is also a major contributing factor and the need to carry heavy book bags also plays its part. Students are particularly at risk because many have been using electronic devices for several years without guidance.
Healthy Working MOVE is a free ergonomics e-learning course from Cardinus Risk Management that will engage students and inform them of the risks. More importantly, it gives practical, real-world advice about how to avoid stress, strain and pain resulting from the careless use of technology.
Visit www.ergonomics4kids.com for further advice and ergonomic support materials for children.