Back care

Practical tips to save your back and voice by Lorna Taylor, Chartered Physiotherapist.

Importance of healthy posture

Our spines are vulnerable. They have to provide strength (to keep us upright) and flexibility (to help us move). Healthy postures are comfortable and efficient, helping to reduce pain.

Stooping, twisting and sitting with knees higher than hips are common when working with young children. How many times do you bend over a low table? Poor postures can lead to back ache and sciatica with compensatory neck and shoulder pain as, to maintain eye contact, you naturally lift your head.

Think prevention

The highest risk factor for back pain is a previous episode. Don’t wait until you have pain. If you feel ‘niggles’, mention what activities might be causing it to your head/manager so action can be taken. It’s likely that if you find something uncomfortable, your colleagues will too. Maybe it’s moving the sand/water tray, the position of the whiteboard or sitting on children’s chairs?

Safer storage

Keep heavier items (books etc.) between waist and shoulder height. Can areas be rearranged so pupils can access their own materials? Fit storage sheds with a fixed or portable ramp.

Training

Have you had manual handling training? Ask your manager for further information as this is a legal requirement.

Think children

Changing lifestyles are affecting growing spines. Up to 50% of 14 year olds have suffered back pain. Children learn through observation so remember your own safer lifting and healthy postures! Arrange the classroom so all children can see the board without twisting around. Can they turn their chairs around and use a clipboard or regularly change position? A floor sitting wedge cushion can also improve posture for younger pupils.

Awareness of back strain

Recognising when something is going wrong is important to prevent it from becoming something more serious. A good rule of thumb is: if it hurts, stop doing it!

Further information

BackCare

BackCareis a charity which aims to significantly reduce the burden of back pain by providing information and advice to all people and organisations affected by back pain. Visit their website.

RIDDOR

(Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) (HSE)

Information about the duties on employers to report serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences. Visit their website.