‘Better Backs For Children. A guide for teachers and parents’ by The National Back Pain Association (1990)

As you may already be aware, in late 2016 we received a wonderful donation from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) which included 380 pamphlet boxes containing material published by the NUT itself and many other organisations operating in the areas of education, children and families.

We have checked and sorted these publications, discovering many interesting items during the process. You may recall that in February this year we created a LibGuide and published a series of blog posts looking in more detail at a selection of these NUT resources.

Our focus has now moved to the over 400 other organisations included in the donation. Some of these were and still are well known, others are special interest groups that offer a unique perspective on the key educational issues of the day. This week we thought we would share some of the ‘gems’ that we’ve discovered so far…

‘Better Backs For Children. A guide for teachers and parents’ was published by The National Back Pain Association in 1990.It is a publication which packs a wealth of information and advice into its 20 well illustrated pages.

It purpose is clearly stated in its opening statement:

The National Back Pain Association believes that much adult back pain can be traced to the posture and practices of childhood, and that teachers, parents and other adults, who have children in their care, need to more aware of the significance of strains and stresses placed on young bodies during these formative years.

The introduction expands on the purpose of the guide

This guide is devoted to:

  • Furthering the understanding of the causes of back pain
  • The prevention of postural back pain in children
  • Reducing the incidence of traumatic back pain
  • Encouraging the development of good posture in childhood, which, if carried on into adult life, can prevent much later back trouble
  • Ensuring teachers are aware that some problems with children’s backs are not of postural origin

From the anatomy of the spine, through sections on ‘Ergonomics in the School’ (storage, furniture, using step ladders safely), lifting and moving furniture and equipment, exercise and sport, plenty of useful information is provided.

The guide makes suggestions on improving posture and protecting children’s backs, games such as Lift the Rag Doll are designed to promote good lifting techniques.

There may be many people who wish their P.E. teachers had heeded the advice:

NB Don’t encourage young people to stretch the hamstrings by standing with straight knees and touching the toes. This causes great stress and strain on the low back.

Included amongst the suggestions for classroom activities and P.E. lessons are some examples of the psycho-social aspects of posture which could be discussed with older pupils:

  • Girls or boys who are very tall for their age and consciously or subconsciously attempt to lower their height by rounding back and shoulders.
  • Children who hunch over their work to prevent other children copying
  • Shy children who adopt an inwardly closing posture 

Although the Guide was published in 1990 its contents are still relevant today. You may find these articles of interest:

Molenbroek JFM, Kroon-Ramaekers YMT, Snijders CJ. Revision of the design of a standard for the dimensions of school furniture. Ergonomics, 2003:46: pp. 681-94.

Skoffer, B. Low back pain in 15-16-year-old children in relation to school furniture and carrying of the school bag. Spine, November 2007, 32(24): pp.E713-E717.

Watson,Dan. The seat of learning. The Times Educational Supplement; London; Issue. 5232, Jan 20, 2017.

Yamato, Tiê Parma ; Maher, Chris G ; Traeger, Adrian C ; Wiliams, Christopher M ; Kamper, Steve J . Do schoolbags cause back pain in children and adolescents? A systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2 May 2018

The scale of the donation means that these items have not yet been catalogued- and that is the next stage in this exciting project. In the meantime, please visit our LibGuide which includes information on the access arrangements that we have in place for these fascinating items.


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