Back and neck problems used to be rare in children and young people, but many more are suffering nowadays.
“If the issues that cause young people to develop back problems are left unidentified and untreated, they are likely to become worse and inevitably cause more problems as they get older,” says chiropractor Dominic Cheetham.
Contributory factors include carrying heavy bags on one shoulder rather than a well-designed backpack, sports injuries and sitting for long periods hunched over a flat surface.
“The old-fashioned sloping desks undoubtedly placed the spine in a better position than the modern flat surfaces now used in schools and for homework,” says Cheetham.
He advises using reading stands and writing slopes that lift work up and towards you so that you can keep your back straight.
Anyone working on a laptop should consider using a laptop stand and an external keyboard and mouse.
“School furniture is often too low for the taller children so they slump over their desk,” says Cheetham. It is clearly difficult to make sure that every child in a class has a correct height desk and a suitable chair.
However, at home parents can make sure that the seat height allows them to have their upper arms vertical with the lower arms horizontal at right angles and the wrists straight.
“Make sure their feet are firmly supported, either on the floor or using a footrest. Also check the seat doesn’t compress the back of their knees, which can happen if it is too deep for them.”
Invest in an adjustable chair if possible: one that tips backwards and allows the sitter to change position. If you are using a straight-back “ordinary” chair, try adding a specially designed seat back, a wedge or a lumbar roll in the small of your back.
Lighting is important. An ill-lit room can cause students to adopt uncomfortable postures craning to see what they are working on.
Like adults, children should take regular breaks to get up and move around. This may have multiple benefits: recently a small study of healthy children showed that three-minute walking breaks every half hour activated muscles. This could help clear insulin from the bloodstream, which will protect against type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
By Sarah Stacey for The Mail on Sunday