A recent study of schoolchildren found that long lessons combined with sitting may be contributing to childhood back and neck pain.
The study, by Murphy et al, found that schoolchildren reported significant incident of low back, upper back and neck pain that could be associated with lesson duration and sitting postural position. Sixty-six schoolchildren ages 11 to 14 year old were observed during normal classroom lessons using the Portable Ergonomic Observation method, a validated instrument. The subject group was also given a health and lifestyle questionnaire that covered school activities and included the Nordic Musculoskeletal Disorders Questionnaire.
Researchers found that nearly 44 percent of the children in the study reported recent low back pain while over 51 percent described neck complaints and 34 percent had upper back symptoms. The low back pain was particularly associated with long lesson length, extended duration of trunk flexion more than 20 degrees, and extended duration of neck flexion more than 20 degrees. Static postural sitting position was associated with both upper back and neck symptoms. Neck complaints were also related to taller children.
While the authors cautioned against concluding a causal relationship due to the study’s sample size and design, they did conclude that study findings have implications for schools relative to the length and structure of classroom lessons, and implications for designers regarding the size/features/adjustability of school furniture.
Murphy S, P Buckle and D Stubbs. “Classroom Posture and Self-Reported Back and Neck Pain in Schoolchildren.” Applied Ergonomics 35: 113-120, 2004.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2004-10-19.