JollyBack Blog

Musculoskeletal Health and Wellbeing Collaboration between Jolly Back and Trent Vale Infant School, Nottingham July 2017-to date

Introduction

Jolly Back, created by Physiotherapist Lorna Taylor, has customer service, purpose and passion at heart – to improve the working lives of those who teach and care for children, whilst positively supporting children’s learning.

This is achieved through providing award-winning practical, ergonomically designed products which safely equip educators to most effectively carry out their work, together with up-to-date, reliable knowledge to support employees and employers deliver the best outcomes for children in their care. This is further supported by knowing the legal H&S requirements of employers towards their staff and volunteers are being fulfilled.

Jolly Back’s original product, the Jolly Back Chair, won the Education Resources Award Best New Primary Product in its first year of production with judges saying: “A resource that judges felt addressed the physical needs of the teacher in the classroom, as well as improving the learning environment. This ingenious and cost-effective solution to the needs of teachers working with young children at small desks is ergonomically designed and adjustable to work at low table heights. The judges said that it was good for teachers and learning assistants to feel valued and their needs addressed.” Sharon Cufflin on behalf on the judging panel for the Education Resources Awards.

I often learn and am inspired by people’s Tweets but this January, was bowled over by Nottingham Councillor, David Mellen’s New Year Challenge. And after seeing pictures of him looking uncomfortable reading to children I had to get in touch to offer some Jolly Back support..

DavidMellenJollybackchair

LornawithDavidMellen

David’s Challenge was to raise funds for the Imagination Library (an amazing scheme which delivers a free book, every month, to children between the ages of 0 and 5 years old helps parents and children to enjoy exploring books together) by reading a storybook to at least 2018 children - all in the month of January! He planned to visit each of the 20 neighbourhoods across Nottingham through schools, nurseries, libraries, children centres and hospitals.

I met up with David mid challenge and asked him some quick-fire questions:

What are you enjoying about the challenge?

I’m a teacher, I’ve got back pain, what can I do?

Studies show nearly every primary teacher has experienced work-related muscle and joint aches, strains and pain at some point in their career.

The most common causes of discomfort reported (either caused at or exacerbated at work) are:

  • back pain 88%; followed by neck and shoulder pain 73%; and
  • knee pain at 56%.

Musculoskeletal pain is a common cause of staff absence in schools. There is a high risk of short term problems turning into long term absence. Productivity is reduced and children’s learning affected, not to mention the burden it places on individual sufferers. Yet, musculoskeletal health and practical interventions are frequently overlooked in schools.

Staff working in schools, particularly those working with younger children are most at risk, but every teacher can be affected. The “child” environments, together with the added factors of budget restrictions, pupil academic targets, limited understanding of healthier working practices and cultural resistance to change in schools, perhaps leads to little consideration given to musculoskeletal health and the benefits of ergonomics.

However, safer, healthier working and learning environments can be created and healthy habits developed. This leads to positive improvements in health, safety and well-being for staff and pupils.

 

Can we ignore it any longer?

Back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions account for a quarter of all UK sickness absence, that’s 31 million working days lost every year. The costs to the economy are more than hosting the 2012 Olympics EVERY YEAR. Back pain has huge social and emotional costs too.goodposture2

Perhaps due to the immense economic costs, intervention and prevention tend to focus on adults. However, recent research shows that increasing numbers of children are experiencing back and neck pain.

Studies show 72% of primary and 64% of secondary children reported experiencing back and/or neck pain at school, with the majority of cases unreported (Webb 2013).

There are 8.3 million children attending UK schools (Department for Education, 2015), all of whom should be given every opportunity to achieve their full potential. Back pain in children has implications for the future workforce as many young adults are entering the workplace with back and neck pain already present (Murphy et al 2007). It also has substantial economic and public health implications when considering children’s young age and the recurrence potential of the condition throughout adulthood (Trevelyan and Legg 2011). Given that the NHS has 1.4 million employees as the 5th World’s biggest employer, the number of children potentially at risk is enormous.

Non-specific spinal pain in children and young people is multi-factorial in cause but is now a well-established phenomenon and amongst health, education and ergonomics professionals is considered to be on the rise. Predisposing factors for school-aged children include: high body mass index, low physical activity, prolonged sitting, ergonomic risks in the current classroom environment carrying school bags, and >3hours high level sport a week. It must also be noted that back pain in children and young people can also have other biopsychosocial elements (Murphy et al 2007).

It cases absence from education, conservative and pharmacological health interventions, reduced participation in physical activity and the potential to develop long term chronic pain (Hill & Ketaing 2010, Jakes et al 2015). A high proportion of children affected by pain (69% girls and 51% boys) will go on to have a lifetime prevalence of back pain, placing enormous stain on both health and social resources (Jones 2009).

Back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions account for a quarter of all UK sickness absence, that's 31 million working days lost (equivalent to a staggering 1000 average lifetimes) every year. The costs to the economy are more than hosting the 2012 Olympics EVERY YEAR. Back pain has huge social and emotional costs too.colouredlegcollection

Perhaps due to the immense economic costs, intervention and prevention tend to focus on adults. However, recent research shows that increasing numbers of children are experiencing back and neck pain.

Non-specific spinal pain in children and young people is now a well-established phenomenon and amongst health, education and ergonomics professionals is considered to be on the rise.

72% of primary and 64% of secondary children reported experiencing back pain at school, with the majority of cases unreported.
Children spend approximately 30% of their waking hours in school, mostly in a seated position. There are no regulations to keep posture and back health in check, despite the numerous benefits to concentration, health and learning it brings.

For every child to be safe, healthy and reach their full potential, maybe greater emphasis needs to be placed on the school working environment, awareness of ergonomics and healthy posture when using technology. Ofsted should perhaps place greater emphasis on pupil health and wellbeing too?

The good news is that some simple ideas, which can be easily implemented make a real difference to children's back health.