Date Published: 15 October 2006

Teenage lifestyles causing back pain, warn physios

New research released today by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) shows that teenage lifestyles, including lack of exercise and carrying heavy schoolbags, are causing an avoidable increase in the number of people needing treatment for back problems.

Chartered physiotherapists further predict that these problems are set to increase over the next few years. To help prevent the onset of back problems, the CSP has produced a leaflet and poster for parents, young people and schools.

A YouGov survey, commissioned by the CSP, found that:

  • Nearly half (45%) of parents say their children don't take the recommended one-hour of exercise each day.
  • One in four children have complained of back pain at some time.
  • While two thirds of adults know teenage lifestyles can cause back problems, they're not taking action, according to chartered physiotherapists, who say they are already seeing the ill effects.

The CSP is warning young people and their parents of the need to look after their backs as part of BackCare Awareness Week (16 - 21 October). In a recent poll, chartered physiotherapists reported that they are already seeing an increase in the number of people with back problems and that they expect these numbers to increase over the next two to five years. Previous research shows that back pain during adolescence can mean young people are up to four times more likely to suffer back problems when they are adults.

Sarah Bazin, Chair of Council at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said that:

" The human body was not designed to spend long periods of time sitting down - especially not on poorly designed classroom furniture and soft settees. Combine this with a reduction in organised sports activities, heavy school-bags, obesity, stress and poor diets and it is easy to see why young people are less able to cope with life's everyday demands and are more vulnerable to back pain. "

Case Study

Back pain is normally associated with growing older, but the problem is increasing amongst children and young people due to poor lifestyle habits such as lack of exercise, carrying schoolbags incorrectly and sitting in a slouched or awkward manner at school, watching television or while playing computer games.

Despite the fact that Lauren Hutchings, who's just turned 15, takes part in many sports her generally poor sitting posture, and heavy school bags and sports kit have caused her severe back problems. Lauren, like many teenagers, was also pulling her lace-up shoes on and off, so that they were stretched and not offering the support she needed. Following a course of treatment from a chartered physiotherapist as well as new equipment, such as a better sports bag for her hockey stick and office-style chair for homework, Lauren is now free of back pain.

Lauren said:

" Sports injuries I could have understood, but I never realised that not sitting properly and carrying heavy bags could cause such problems. Now I understand why my Mum kept nagging me about sitting up straight and wearing my bag over both shoulders ! "

Lauren's mother Sue said:

" I've learnt that if children and young people don't look after their backs they could be storing up all sorts of problems for the future. Luckily for us, with the advice and help of our physiotherapist we've been able to sort out Lauren's problems and now she's feeling great. "


Source: Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP).

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