This Back Care Awareness Week (7th-11th October), the BCA is encouraging people in the UK to get moving, after finding over 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.

The findings come from a recent survey conducted by the BCA of its members from across the UK, which also unearthed that 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.

Lower back pain was revealed to be the most common complaint BCA members treat among all their patients, as a growing number of people continue to replace regular exercise with sedentary habits. This fits with statistics from across the world which suggest that low back pain causes more global disability than any other condition[1].

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[2] so it’s no coincidence that our findings echo similar reports from other researchers and organisations in the chiropractic profession.
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Our members are seeing more and more cases of back and neck pain amongst a much younger age group, which is a sign of how our lifestyles are changing. Back and neck pain can of course develop at any age and is usually not serious, however many of us are spending more time being sedentary, whether that’s 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 clearly needed to address the burden of low back pain as a public health problem[3].

“This Back Care Awareness Week we want to shine a light on the easy steps people can take to improve their back health and mobility, whatever your age. It’s not about drastically changing your routine, or never using a device again, it’s about incorporating simple steps into your day to day routine to break up the periods of sitting or being still. We’re often sold technology on the basis that it will make our lives easier, but it’s important to remember that a lot of the tech we have in our home encourages to stay still, so the key thing is to bring movement and balance into your day.”

The BCA’s findings follow on from a recent report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which revealed that less than 10% of British teenagers meet the recommended guidelines for sleep, exercise and screen time[4]. 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 that they will often see the onset of back problems in children and young 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 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 of 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. This means that habitual behaviour, like bending your head over your phone, is more likely to lead to postural issues.

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

Back Care Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about the ways we can reduce the burden of back and neck pain, which, according to a recent report published by Arthritis Research UK, affects 10 million people in England and Scotland alone[5].

Regularly changing posture and remaining seated for no longer than 30 minutes at a time are just a couple of the 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 join and back pain by 25%[6]; 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.

The BCA’s top tips for better back health

With devices and new technologies now a staple in both homes and workplaces, the BCA [or chiropractor’s name]has shared [its/their] 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 of time, make sure you are sitting comfortably with your back supported in the base of the chair. Sitting with your head forward adds strain on your neck and back, so also make sure that you are sitting with your head directly over your body.

•Get moving: You back loves to stay active, so try and 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.

•Straighten Up!: The BCA has created a programme of three-minute exercises, Straighten Up UK, which can be slotted in to your daily schedule to help prevent back pain by promoting movement, balance, strength and flexibility in the spine.

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