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Back Pain: A real pain in the classroom for teachers

We often get teachers coming into out clinic, complaining of pain in their back, neck and shoulders. When we ask the important questions to identify the causes of the problem, we frequently find that patients in this profession’s spinal health are not considered. Primary school teachers spend many hours bending forward, assisting their students at low table levels. High school teachers on the other hand, spend loads of time sitting- marking and assessing papers, they also tend to be the ones carrying too many books at once and stand in awkward positions while writing on boards.

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Small tables and chairs, extra low sinks and toilets and comfortable floor equipment for story reading have all been designed to fit the needs of our kids, but we so often forget, that these customized versions of equipment often neglects the fact that the teacher bending, lifting and reaching would be adjusting her/his posture to adjust to these tiny ergonomically designed tables and chairs.

A survey showed that two-thirds of workers in primary and early-years classrooms have received treatment for back and joint problems as a result of working in child-sized environments. Some had paid hundreds of pounds from their own pockets to seek treatment from chiropractors and physiotherapists.

 

The study of more than 700 teachers and pre-school staff found that heavy- lifting of children and equipment, using child-height computers and whiteboards, and standing all day were also adding to teachers’ pain. Nearly 40 per cent of those taking part in the study had taken time off work because of work-related joint or back pain. Lorna Taylor, the research conductor, also found that only one in every 10 of teachers reports their cases.

 

In another study that was conducted to estimate occurrence and pattern of musculoskeletal pain disorders among secondary school Saudi female teachers, they found that almost 80% of those participating in the study had musculoskeletal pain disorders. Main sites of pain were lower back (63.8%) followed by shoulder (45.4%), neck (42.1%), leg (40.0%), wrist (16.2%), and elbow joint (10.0%).

For the full research article follow the link below.

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/prt/2013/878570/

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Musculoskeletal disorders have a huge impact on work related absences. For example in the UK, in 2007/2008, on average, each person suffering from an upper-limb disorder took an estimated 13.3 days off work due to a self-reported work-related illness or workplace injury, each person suffering from back pain an estimated 17.2 days, and each person suffering from a lower limb disorder an average of 21.8 days off.

 

So what can you do as a teacher to avoid these injuries.

 

  • Don’t clutter your room. Leave enough space to carry things from one side to another.
  • Use safe lifting techniques, try to push rather than pull, and avoid physically lifting students.
  • Transport heavy paperwork on a wheeled trolley.
  • Have a supply of staff backpacks for use on school trips.
  • Take time to adjust workstations, take regular breaks and rest if aching.
  • Try using a high stool instead of standing for long periods.
  • Use a specially designed chair or floor cushion for low sitting.
  • Use a height adjustable table.

Teachers usually respond well to chiropractic treatment, and some even come in for maintenance treatment every now and again.