Yes, you’re young, you’re having fun, you feel immortal. But the truth is that if you thought back pain was something that hits in middle age or later, you’re wrong. Students lead a lifestyle that makes them especially vulnerable to back pain: in fact, the majority of college students report some back pain. Complacency around back pain can not only impact the fun you can have here and now but also lead to grave consequences down the line from chronic pain to paralysis. We’ll walk you through a few tips and tricks to solve your back-pain issues or even pre-empt them entirely. Are you sitting comfortably?
What Makes College Students So Vulnerable To Back Pain?
There are a multitude of factors that make students especially vulnerable to back pain. One of the most dominant factors is carrying heavy backpacks filled with textbooks that place extraordinary strain on the lower back. Professors love to sell you an expensive hardback textbook after all and these are required reading on many courses. Further, sitting in lectures and later hunched over the computer churning out assignments often leads to posture problems that affect the back. And lastly, a few lifestyle choices such as sleeping habits and diet make students vulnerable to a variety of health problems including spinal issues. Educate yourself on these risks and read on to discover our tips to save your spine.
Straighten Out Your Posture
One of the most important things you can do day-to-day to look after your spine and prevent back pain creeping in is to take care of your posture. Developing good posture takes time, but building up those habits when you’re young will give you a life free of back pain. Good posture counteracts a lot of the elements of student lifestyle that impact on student back pain, so it’s important to consider at all times. Common posture mistakes are easy to make, but if you think about keeping your ears, shoulders and hips in a single line you’ll naturally straighten up. As an added bonus, you’ll appear to have grown a few inches overnight!
Choose The Right Pack
As mentioned, one of the major reasons that students end up experiencing back pain is from lugging those heavy packs full of textbooks and laptops from class to class. The first thing you need to do is to lighten the load. Studies have shown that backpacks shouldn’t weigh more than 10-15% of a student’s bodyweight: above this limit back pain becomes much more common. Rather than dragging a whole book that’s 90% unnecessary, try scanning the required reading and carrying that with you instead.
What’s more, not all packs are created equal. Finding a comfortable pack that distributes weight equally across the shoulders can make a huge difference. Slinging a pack over one shoulder might make you look cool and casual, but it can lead to big problems as one side does all the work. Careful choice of pack can take the weight of your spine and offer huge relief.
How Are You Working?
Hunching over laptops or books in lecture theatres, not to mention marathon study sessions in the library are all spine killers. We know that students are never going to give up cramming for exams, but revisiting how you work can give your spine a break from all the hunching. If you find yourself working predominantly on a laptop or desktop computer, place the computer at eye level so you’re encouraged to sit up straight, or even consider taking it to the next level with a standing desk. Taking a break every thirty minutes or so by standing up and taking a stroll will not only encourage your concentration on the source material, but also give your back a break.
Keep It Moving
Keeping your body moving and your blood flowing is a great way to keep your spine happy in a world where we spend increasing amounts of time seated. This doesn’t have to mean hardcore exercise – if you can walk to lectures rather than driving or take the stairs over the escalator, these small changes in your habits will help your spine recover from hours sitting in lectures or dragging around textbooks.
As a student it’s a rite of passage to wake up face down on the floor from time to time. However, how you sleep can have a big impact on your spine’s wellbeing so try to minimize these evenings if you can. Sleeping on your back and side is recommended by chiropractors, and choosing the right mattress for your spine can make a big difference. Finding the balance between comfort and support can put a spring in your step from the moment the alarm goes.
You Are What You Eat
Your diet will have a big impact on how you feel generally, and this can affect your spinal wellbeing as much as anything else. Cutting out fast foods and processed sugar, which have a tendency to inflame your body and make you feel bloated, will be a step towards perfect spinal health. Packing your diet with anti-inflammatories is a life hack that can ease back pain and make you feel incredible – start your day with a cup of green tea infused with ginger and wind down your evening with a hot milk mixed with honey and turmeric. It can be tough figuring out how to eat well as a student but you’ll feel better for it.
Strengthening your core with a series of workouts will make a big difference as strong abs offer support for the back and shoulders. Incorporating planks, sit ups and crunches into your exercise regime will help you work towards that fabled six pack, but a better motivation should be an absence of back pain. Patients with chronic back pain have even been prescribed core strengthening exercises to help them overcome their pain.
If you find yourself suffering from back pain, don’t lose hope. Figuring out a routine of stretches can offer instant relief to a fussy spine and there are loads of things you can do at home to get started. Yoga has been helping people from East to West for centuries in relieving back pain. Working a yoga routine into your day can help body and mind simultaneously. Starting in a child’s pose opening the shoulders and then flowing through a practice that includes cat cows, forward standing folds and seated twists is a full spine-tingling workout that’ll leave you feeling great. A long exhale as you twist will help deepen the stretch and your spine will thank you.
The first step towards a healthy spine is to be aware of how our common day-to-day practices can have such an impact on spine health, and the reasons why back pain is so common today. As a student you have the opportunity to take control of your wellbeing, yet the pitfalls of student accommodation mattresses, overpacked backpacks full of textbooks and hours hunched over a desk are hard to avoid. Protecting your back can be as easy as making a few simple tweaks to your day. With our tips for spinal health, we’ve got your back.
Katherine Rundell is a writer at Paper Writing Service. She has been writing about student health for twenty years and has raised two kids into healthy adults (with perfect posture!) in those years.