September 23, 2013
Another Reason To Hate School – Desks Are Giving Kids Chronic Back Pain
[ Watch The Video: Backpacks Could Lead To Backpain ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineAs adults around the United States watch with schadenfreude as kids around them settle back into their school-day routines, it may concern them to know that the ergonomics of a child’s school environment are less than optimal. In fact, some kids are suffering physical consequences because of the amount of time they spend sitting at a desk or lifting heavy books.
Led by researchers at the Biomechanics and Functional Morphology Laboratory at the University of Lisbon, the scientists performed a cross-sectional study of almost 140 12- to 15 year-olds of various levels of maturity to determine the physical impact of a mismatch between school furniture dimensions, the weight of a typical school bag and the student's physiological characteristics.
The researchers discovered that nearly two thirds (80) of the students studied had some type of back pain and that the difference between desk height and elbow height was linked with a greater chance of the adolescents experiencing pain. Girls were more likely to experience this discrepancy than boys - 59 percent compared to 47 percent of boys.
"Our results also showed that there was no association between backpack weight, body mass index (BMI) and back pain," the study authors noted in their report. "These results highlight the importance to study the school environment to establish preventive programs for back pain in youths," the researchers added.
The Portuguese team said that the number of school children and adolescents having frequent episodes of ergonomics-related pain has increased in the last few decades. They added that people suffering from this kind of pain during childhood are at increased risk for suffering similar pain in adulthood unless the problem is correctly treated.
Despite touting the results of their study, researchers admitted that back pain can be caused by a myriad of factors, including age, family history, gender and lifestyle. They noted that ergonomic factors found in day-to-day life also play a significant role. The team said educational officials may want to reconsider the amount of time kids spend sitting at a desk when scheduling physical activity and sports programs.
"These results highlight how relevant it is to study the school environment in order to establish preventive programs for back pain in children and adolescents, not only health-wise, but also in terms of school education," the researchers concluded. "These results show the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles in what concerns physical activity and a balanced nutrition."
The conclusions of the Portuguese study echo the sentiments of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. With less of a focus on ergonomics and more of an emphasis on reducing childhood obesity, the campaign calls for kids to spend less time sitting and more time being physically active.
“Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let’s Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years,” reads a statement on the campaign’s website.