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Avoid back pain in children as they go back to school

Updated on November 5, 2009

Tip tips to avoid your child's back pain


Back to School -Top tips to avoid back pain in our schoolchildren

In 2008 the Scottish Chiropractic Association released a press release to help call for more to be done to protect children and young people's backs. This information is as relevant today as it was then. This information was written for pupils returning to school in Scotland, however these tips are relevant to pupils and students everywhere.

One in three people in Britain currently suffer from back pain*. This places an enormous burden on society because of lost working days and disruption to daily lives. Today the Chiropractors calls on the government, local authorities, schools and parents to do more to prevent future generations from suffering as acutely.

"As a society, we need to raise awareness of spinal care - how to look after your back and neck properly - from a young age. Children are taught in nursery to maintain their teeth but they are never taught to how to maintain a healthy spine. As adults, we must endeavour to make sure that the daily lives of pupils today will not lead to future back problems. School furniture should be designed to support good posture; teachers ought to encourage pupils to sit properly and to move around regularly; parents must ensure that school bags and school shoes are not causing neck and back damage."

Chiropractors urge that the following actions are taken:

Healthy Spines Awareness Campaign(for local governments)

  • Put together a spinal care programme to fit in with the Health Promoting Schools scheme (eg posture-awareness, exercise, checklist for prevention of back/neck pain etc)
  • Ensure that local authorities have a specific responsibility for pupils' spinal health and that educational and practical measures are taken to meet this responsibility (eg appropriate furniture, high-quality Physical Education)

School Furniture (for schools and education departments)

  • All pupils have lockers to avoid carrying unduly heavy bags every day
  • All desks and chairs are designed to maximise good posture - this should be a criteria for local authority purchasing departments
  • All desks and chairs should be appropriate to the height of the pupil (as opposed to age-specific as at present) - taller and shorter pupils may be suffering undue back strain because they have to use furniture which is the wrong size for them
  • Computer tables and chairs should be adjusted for each pupil before lessons start
  • All computer desks and keyboards should have gel wrist supports
  • The height of stools in science labs should be appropriate to the worktop height (tall stools can result in stooping for prolonged periods)

School Bags and shoes (for parents and pupils)

  • Function must come before fashion: bags should be rucksack-style, with padded adjustable straps and should be worn on both shoulders with the bag resting against the lower back. The current fashion for single-strap bags, shopper-style bags and rucksacks worn on only one shoulder is potentially damaging for children's backs
  • Shoes should supportive. The higher the heels, the bigger the stress impact on the developing spine

Common Back and Neck Symptoms Associated with School Bags

  • Aching of the shoulders, neck or back
  • Pain, tingling or numbness in the neck, arms or hands
  • Weakened muscles
  • Headaches
  • Hunched posture
  • Leaning to one side or forwards or backwards
  • Red marks or creases on the shoulders (from bags)

Top Tips for Parents

  • Ensure a weekly clear-out of your child's bag takes place and remind your child to remove unnecessary books
  • Provide a backpack-style school bag and check that it is properly adjusted (the bottom of the back should be 2 inches above the waist and resting in the curve of the lower back)
  • Monitor/remind your child to wear their backpack properly
  • Weigh the backpack regularly to ensure that it is within the safety weight range of 15% or less of your child's body weight
  • Try and win the function versus fashion battle with your child's school shoes!
  • Lobby your child's school to provide lockers
  • Encourage your child's spinal awareness by promoting good posture
  • Register your child with an SCA chiropractor who can detect the earliest signs of spinal stress and can evaluate your child's spine (some chiropractors offer free assessments for children)


Chiropractic is a primary health-care profession that specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and overall management of conditions that are due to problems with the joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves of the body, particularly those of the spine. Chiropractors focus on the relationship between the structure and function of the human body, primarily coordinated by the nervous system. Treatment consists of a wide range of techniques designed to improve the function of the nervous system, relieving pain and muscle spasm and improving overall health.

* Source: British Chiropractic Association research,


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