The return to classrooms also brings risks for the backs of schoolchildren due to excessive weight of backpacks, sitting for several hours and due to the syndrome of neck pain or “text neck”, caused by the prolonged use of electronic devices and bad postures.
A schoolboy looks at the mobile phone. EFE/Felip Guerra
The Spanish Society of Vertebral Column offers a series of recommendations to prevent this neck and back pain in children and adolescents with the school year recently started.
This is what back pain is like in schoolchildren
The Spanish Vertebral Column Society estimates that 70% of children will have back pain before the age of 16 and 8% could suffer from it chronically.
Around the age of 9 or 10, the most painful area is the back, while from the age of 15 this pain is equated with the lumbar.
More than 80% of lower back pain in schoolchildren is functional, that is to say, related to contractures, bad posture and sedentary life.
This diagnosis is very frequent, the second cause of consultation for pain in Primary Care.
The sore throat syndrome
Although pain in the neck area is less common, spending too many hours in front of electronic devices can also cause what is known as neck pain syndrome or text neck.
It is a muscle disorder that appears due to the bad position of the neck when leaning forward for long periods of time and that can produce pain and cervical stiffness.
The average weight of a child’s head is around two kilograms. For every two centimeters that you lean forward, the pressure exerted on the cervical spine is multiplied by two.
Prolonged use of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets…) and incorrect postural hygiene when using them exerts strong pressure on the spine and can lead to the appearance of more serious pathologies, such as disc herniation.
This “technological disease” largely affects children and adolescents (almost 90% prevalence in this population), which is why this medical society recommends:
- Place devices at eye level and avoid looking down.
- Take breaks while using the devices and practice some stretching exercises.
- Maintain an upright posture.
Tips for other back ailments
According to the Spanish Vertebral Column Society:
- The weight of the backpack should not exceed 15-20% of the body weight.
- It is important to choose a suitable backpack, with wide adjustable straps.
- You need to try it on beforehand to be sure that it fits the child’s physiognomy and height, preventing it from falling below the buttocks.
- For a correct distribution of the load inside the backpack, it is recommended to place the material with the heaviest weight close to the body.
- Optimizing the weight of the school material to be transported is a shared responsibility and educators have an essential role in avoiding the daily burden of all the material.
- Sitting for long periods of time (not only in classrooms, but also at home when studying) can also cause lower back pain, especially if you don’t do physical activity.
- Exercising daily is the best prevention, in addition to monitoring what is known as postural hygiene or ergonomics.