In this months newsletter Tony O'Brien registered osteopath with 10yrs plus experience talks about how osteopathy can help with the strain of back to school.
Back to School Strain
We are not long back into the new school year, and the signs are there once again of the back to school strain. There are many factors and conditions that can lead to strain, but the most common one is stress. As Osteopaths, we see an increase in the number of young people attending for treatment as a result of such strains. Lets take a look at what appears to be behind this situation.
Those who suffer the most, tend to be teenagers attending secondary school, although some primary school children also suffer. There are two factors that appear to be mainly significant in causing these strains. The first factor that both young people and parents identify is heavy schoolbags. In secondary school, young people have considerably more books to bring to school. Some schools provide lockers where books and equipment can be kept, but a great many don't. Most young people tend to use a backpack type of schoolbag. We believe it is the combination of weight and the fitting of the carrying straps that causes these strains. Incorrect fitting can cause the shoulder girdle and spine to become stressed and misaligned, and if left over time can produces strain. Also weight plays a large part in producing strain, and we often see young people having to lean forwards under the weight of their backpacks.
This brings in a second significant factor in the cause of back strain, and that is posture. Throughout the life of young people, there are many periods of growth and developments. Early teenage years are no exception, with many factors at play. It is understood within osteopathy and beyond, that posture contains a large psychological and emotional part. How we wish to be seen or not seen by the world can play a significant part in how we hold ourselves. Students are often observed sitting at their desks in all sorts of contorted positions. Some students often lean over their desks in a twisted position to write, and may keep up this posture for long periods of time. As we know young people come in all sizes, but equipment may not always suit their shape and build. While they can compensate for this up to a point, there comes a time when these stresses can cause strain.
The body is designed along mechanical principles, which allow its structures to operate and function while insuring its integrity. The body can adapt up to a point, to facilitate the demands the activities of life places on it. The body is suspended through the tension of its tissues such as ligaments and muscles, and the pressure in its cavities including the fluid in the joints. The combination and balance of these two forces i.e. tension and pressure, are what keeps us upright and mobile while overcoming the force of gravity. From this it can be understood, that when loads are brought to bare on the structures of the body that produce strain, the mechanical relationships begin to brake down.
When young people are presented for treatment with these types of strains, they often complain of lower back aches or pain, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, tightness and or shallow breathing. As Osteopaths, we work to address what is causing these strains and to free up the structures to restore balance and health. The good news is, that young people respond much quicker with treatment than older people. This also highlights the importance of addressing these strains while people are young, if left unresolved they can be a source of problems later in life.