Students spend long hours sitting while reading, studying, playing video games, etc., often in prolonged, awkward, and static positions. They often sit in poorly designed seats, at awkward desk arrangements and they frequently use computers for extended periods. Prolonged sitting during these activities may cause muscles and other soft tissues to become stretched or shortened compared to normal. Muscles may be overworked or become constantly contracted.
The abnormal stresses placed on the student’s body may cause discomfort ranging from minor pain, which subsides overnight, to debilitating longer-term pain. Pain from the poor or prolonged postures may present as headaches, neck and low back pain, pain in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands.
Many of these aches and pains can be avoided by following simple guidelines, which will decrease these increased stresses placed on a student’s body.
- Change your study habits, work style, and study or computer work area frequently are often sufficient to alleviate significantly the pain, which may arise.
- Keep the computer or books in front of you, not off to the side.
- Keep the shoulders relaxed while studying. Periodically perform shoulder shrugs, rolls, and squeezes to reduce the tension in the shoulder blade and neck muscles.
- Do not sit with legs or knees crossed for extended periods of time.
- Study in well lit areas to avoid eye strain and to avoid bending in order to see the reading material or computer.
- Take frequent breaks
- Alternate computer or study time with unrelated activities to allow different muscle groups to be used.
- Perform periodic stretching exercises of the back, neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, and fingers.
- Build in some time during most days of the week to get exercise to keep muscles healthy and better able to withstand stress.
Low Back Pain Conditions
Some common low back pain conditions are:
Herniated Disc (often referred to as a Slipped Disc)
A herniated disc is a frequent cause of mild or moderate low back or leg pain. Soft flexible discs separate the bones in the spine. The discs, which have a rigid outside rim and a soft, gel-like centre, act as shock absorbers and protect the spinal cord. Activity, stress, or a mechanical problem in the spine can cause a disc to bulge and become misshapen. The damaged or bulging disc may pinch or irritate a nerve root, causing pain.
The sciatic nerve, composed of several lumbar nerve roots, is one of the nerves most likely to become irritated, usually by a herniated disc. Each of the major branches of sciatic nerve travels through the pelvis and deep in the buttocks, then down the hip and along the back of the thigh to the foot. The pain of sciatica ranges from a mild tingling to a sharp ache severe enough to cause immobility.
Lumbar spinal stenosis
Degeneration of the spine also can result in lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). This disease involves a narrowing of the canal that houses the spinal cord and nerve roots. A narrowed spinal canal may compress nerve roots in the lower back, resulting in pain and weakness in the legs and a dull pain in the lower back. Patients often find relief by sitting or standing in a hunched over position, as if leaning on a shopping cart. Symptoms of LSS usually do not occur until after the age of 50.
Disc degeneration (osteoarthritis in the spine)
Another common disorder of the lower spine is disc degeneration, or osteoarthritis in the spine. As the body ages, the discs in the spine dehydrate or dry out, and lose their ability to act as shock absorbers. The bones and ligaments that make up the spine also become less flexible and thicken. Degeneration in the discs is normal and is not in itself a problem. But pain occurs when these discs or bone spurs begin to pinch and put pressure on the nearby nerve roots or spinal cord.
Degeneration in the spine also can lead to Spondylolisthesis, a condition characterised by the slippage of a vertebra in the spine. One vertebra slips forward over another, stretching or pinching the sciatic nerve and causing pain.
Causes of Back Pain
The causes of more than 80 percent of back pain cases are unknown. Some people have damaged or bulging discs but feel fine. Researchers do know that back pain often begins with an injury, after lifting a heavy object or moving suddenly. People who do not exercise regularly face an increased risk for back pain, as do obese people. Blood clots, tumours and abscesses can cause sciatica. Arthritic back pain can be the result of trauma or infection. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can cause back pain when arteries in the legs are clogged.
“My daughter has been to Woodside Clinic on few occasions and have we been very happy with the staff and treatment received. I would highly recommend Woodside Clinic to anyone seeking relief from pain!” Mrs S