This Chiropractic Awareness Week (14 – 20 April) the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) is warning parents that teenagers could be at risk from suffering back or neck pain due to sedentary lifestyles and the excessive use of technology.
New findings from the BCA show that 40% of 11 to 16 year olds in the UK have experienced back or neck pain. Worryingly, more than one in seven (15%) parents said their son’s or daughter’s pain is a result of using a laptop, tablet or computer.
The research also revealed that nearly one quarter (23%) of children are spending between two to four hours a day watching TV. Adding to sedentary screen time, one quarter (25%) spend the same amount of time on a laptop, tablet or computer.
Now chiropractors are noticing a rise in the number of young people presenting with neck and back problems due to their lifestyle choices. Today, the BCA is encouraging parents to limit the time their children spend using technology and instead encourage more active pastimes over the Easter holidays.
Based on a two hour period, young people spend more time on games consoles (33%) than doing an activity like riding a bicycle (12%). When asked how much time their teenager spends on their bicycle, one in five (21%) parents admitted that they don’t have one.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly half (46%) of parents questioned acknowledged that their children don’t spend enough time exercising, despite NHS guidelines stating that children and young people between 5 and 18 years old need to do at least one hour of physical activity every day.
Commenting on the findings, BCA chiropractor, Jorgen Pedersen from Enniskillen Chiropractic Clinic in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, said: “We are seeing more and more people under the age of sixteen with back and neck pain and technology is so often the cause. Young people are becoming increasingly sedentary which is damaging their posture. There is the tendency to sit in a hunched position when working on computers and laptops, putting a lot of strain on the neck.
“Learning how to sit properly and keeping active will help to keep young people healthy and pain free. It’s important that parents seek help for their children from an expert as soon as any pain starts – if conditions are left untreated it could lead to chronic back and neck problems in later life.”
The BCA offers the following top tips for parents to help their teenagers reduce the risks of back and neck pain:
- Get your kids moving: The fitter children are, the more their backs can withstand periods of sitting still. To increase fitness levels, your child should be more active which can be achieved by doing activities including walking to school, riding a bike or going for a run.
- Teach them how to sit: It’s important that children learn the correct way to sit when they’re using a computer. Teach them to keep their arms relaxed and close to their body and place arms on the desk when typing. Make sure the top of the screen is level with the eyebrows and the chair is titled slightly forward, allowing for the knees to be lower than the hips and the feet to be flat on the floor. Using a laptop or tablet away from a desk will encourage poor posture, so limit time spent in this way.
- Don’t sit still for too long: Make sure children take a break from the position they’re sitting in on a regular basis and stretch their arms, shrug their shoulders and move their fingers around – this helps to keep the muscles more relaxed.
- Lead by example: Maintaining good posture and promoting good back health is something that everyone should be doing, adults and children alike. If you make it a priority, it’s easier for your children to see the relevance.
- Seek medical advice: Seek professional advice if your child is experiencing pain which has lasted for more than a few days. If your child wants to be more active, check that there are no medical reasons why they should not exercise, particularly if they are not normally physically active.
For more information on how to maintain a healthy posture, the BCA has developed ‘Straighten Up’ – a simple, three minute exercise programme for all ages, designed to help strengthen the spine and improve posture and help joints. To watch a video of the exercises you can do, please visit: http://bit.ly/straightenup. You can also find a lot of valuable posture advice at http://bit.ly/bcapostureinf.