MORE than 70% of chiropractors have treated patients with injuries linked to sedentary lifestyle habits, such as screen time (78%), commuting (88%) and sitting for too long (93%). Technology has been found to have the biggest growing impact on people’s back health, according to a recent survey by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA).

Similar numbers (68%) of chiropractors have seen an increase in children with issues linked to screen time, in the last five years in particular. In a very extreme case, one BCA chiropractor reported that a child as young as four had complained to their parents of back pain, linked to using a tablet device for hours each day.

Easy changes to everyday life can make a significant difference

Lower back pain was revealed to be the most common complaint chiropractors treat among all their patients, as a growing number of people replace regular exercise with sedentary habits. This fits with statistics across the world which suggest that low back pain causes more global disability than any other condition.

Catherine Quinn, president of the BCA, said: “Almost everyone will have low back pain at some point in their lives. It can affect anyone at any age, and it is increasing – disability due to back pain has risen by more than 50% since 1990 so it’s no coincidence that our findings echo similar reports from other researchers and organisations in the chiropractic profession.

“Our members are seeing more and more cases of back and neck pain among a much younger age group, which is a sign of how our lifestyles are changing. Back and neck pain can develop at any age and is usually not serious. However, many of us are spending more time being sedentary, whether sat at a desk, watching TV or using tablets in the evening. Research shows us that this lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for lots of health concerns, including back pain, and that intensified efforts and initiatives are needed to address the burden of low back pain as a public health problem.”

The BCA’s findings follow on from a recent report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which revealed that fewer than 10% of British teenagers meet the recommended guidelines for sleep, exercise and screen time. In addition, it found that more than three-quarters of teenagers spent more than the recommended two hours a day interacting with screens.

One respondent to the BCA’s survey suggested they often see the onset of back problems in children around the age of 11, when they go to secondary school and their parents have less control over their phone use and screen time.

Catherine Quinn continued: “Our lifestyles have completely changed in the last 20 years, with advances in technology like mobile phones and smart devices meaning we’re spending less time on the move and more time looking at screens. We now spend so much more time at a desk working from a laptop or computer, too. All this is having a direct impact on our general back health.

“With young people particularly, it’s important to remember that their bones and skeletons are still developing. So habitual behaviour, like bending your head over your phone, is more likely to lead to postural issues.

“Easy changes to everyday life can make a significant difference, but if your pain doesn’t reduce or is prolonged, you should see a health professional for guidance.”

Regularly changing posture and remaining seated for no longer than 30 minutes at a time are two simple ways to prevent or reduce pressure on the back. Research by Arthritis UK also proves that physical activity can reduce the risk of developing joint and back pain by 25%; a claim supported by the BCA, with 68% of its members believing that exercise is the single most important element for maintaining good back health.

Dos and don’ts at your desk

WITH devices and new technologies now a staple in homes and workplaces, the BCA shares its top tips for keeping mobile and your back healthy.

Sit up:

If you’re watching TV or using a computer or mobile device for a prolonged period, sit comfortably with your back supported in the base of the chair. Sitting with your head forward adds strain on your neck and back, so sit with your head directly over your body.

Get moving:

Your back loves to stay active, so try to move around every 20-30 minutes, whether at home or at work (an easy trick is to stand up every time you’re on the phone). Being active is also a great way to keep back pain at bay, but don’t be tempted to go straight in, full throttle with high endurance-based activities, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while. You can gradually build up your exercise load with swimming, walking or yoga which can be less demanding on your body, while still keeping you physically active.

Check your workspace:

If your job primarily involves sitting at a desk and staring at a computer for hours at a time, make sure your desk is set up to support a comfortable position. This is different for everyone so if you don’t feel comfortable in your current set up, try altering the height of your chair or screen. 

Article from TalkBack, Winter | 2019 (BackCare)

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