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As students, how many of us would have welcomed a school uniform that stipulated what sort of bag we carried?
The guess is not many, but this move could have prevented millions of us from the torturous back pain we suffer every day.
Research has found back pain is the leading cause of human disability and accounts for a quarter of sick days taken off work by adults.
But the problem doesn’t just affect grownups.
A growing number of children and teenagers are struggling with back pain as a result of heavy bags carried incorrectly, together with poor posture.
Lyndee Oscar, founder of Kids Backs 4 the Future and an osteopath for the past 23 years, says she is seeing more youngsters developing back problems which can be prevented with education.
“We are seeing young people with health problems that are usually associated with the older generation,” says Lyndee.
“We are seeing spinal arthritic changes in 15 year olds, which you get through age and wear and tear. It’s a developmental scoliosis, not congenital, something you are born with.
“Some of this is related to diet – years ago schools would give you milk on a daily basis which would help with the development of the bone structure.
“Now you have to pay for it. A lot is down to carrying very heavy school bags which hang on one shoulder, which places stress down one side of your body.
“This causes the spine to grow that way. Once the spine develops that way it can’t be reversed so when they start work the damage is already done and they have to learn to adapt to life with back pain.
“When I started my career as an osteopath I was treating people in their sixties and seventies, now I am seeing people in their late twenties and early thirties with similar problems.”
Research from BackCare has found a quarter of secondary school pupils suffer from regular or daily back pain.
School bag burden was associated with a ten-fold higher rate of back pain.
Back pain was also associated with prolonged sitting, which students may do for nine hours a day, according to the survey of 900 pupils.
Lyndee, who takes her campaign, Kids Backs 4 the Future, and offers workshops to students in schools in north Essex, says in her experience youngsters often don’t talk about their back pain but acccept it as a part of life.
She says: “They see their parents or grandparents complain of back pain so it is something they expect to have. As a result their pain threshold increases.
These are children as young as age nine to 11.
“We want them to know it can be avoided, that there are simple techniques they can use to prevent back pain. Things like adjusting a laptop or sitting correctly.
“Even using a proper backpack and carrying it correctly on your back.
“We work through different scenarios during the workshops and students get a chance to show how they position themselves at a desk, how they carry their phones and sit with their tablets.
“We look at the individual vertebrae in the spine to see how they work. Once kids understand movement, they understand the importance of back care.
“All these will help prevent back pain,” says Lyndee.
“That, and unlearning bad habits,” she adds.
Lyndee is also a member of a special interest group on children’s ergonomics with the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors.
The group is working towards putting back care onto the curriculum within the Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE), and make it a part of the education delivered by PE teachers.
“Sport, activity and development all go hand in hand,” says Lyndee, who offers workshops to schools to help education youngsters on correct posture.
“We are also working towards an idea that the back pack is part of the school uniform.
“A lot of young people won’t like it, but it would eliminate the chance for carrying a bag in the wrong way.
“Currently there are girls carrying very heavy bags on their elbows, which is impacting on their spines.
“Some schools in London have already adopted this philosophy.
We are talking about the health of the future generation.”
As part of Back Care Week last week Lyndee, who runs the Essex branch of national organisation Back Care, delivered posters to schools across north Essex to highlight back health.
Such is her determination to get the message out there, that she applied for, and won a session at Colchester Soup, a community programme whereby people pitch ideas for community projects and the audience votes on a winner, who wins the takings at the door from that night.
She is a finalist in the Essex Educations Fit 4 life Awards and was named in the top 18 of the Business Boost Awards.
Lyndee adds: “I believe it is my responsibility to use my knowledge of back care to protect the younger generation from musculoskeletal risk.”
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