Back to (back) school
Back and neck problems used to be rare in children and young people, but many more are suffering nowadays. ‘If the issues that cause young people to develop back problems are left unidentified and untreated, they are likely to become worse and inevitably cause more problems as they get older,’ says chiropractor Dominic Cheetham.
Contributory factors include carrying heavy bags on one shoulder rather than a well-designed backpack, sports injuries and sitting for long periods hunched over a flat surface.
‘The old-fashioned sloping desks undoubtedly placed the spine in a better position than the modern flat surfaces now used in schools and for homework,’ says Cheetham (sloanesquarechiropractors.com).
He advises using reading stands and writing slopes that lift work up and towards you so that you can keep your back straight (completecareshop.co.uk).
Anyone working on a laptop should consider using a laptop stand (try posturite.co.uk/laptop-solutions) and an external keyboard and mouse.
‘School furniture is often too low for the taller children so they slump over their desk,’ says Cheetham. It is clearly difficult to make sure that every child in a class has a correct height desk and a suitable chair. However, at home parents can make sure that the seat height allows them to have their upper arms vertical with the lower arms horizontal at right angles and the wrists straight.
‘Make sure their feet are firmly supported, either on the floor or using a footrest. Also check the seat doesn’t compress the back of their knees, which can happen if it is too deep for them.’
Invest in an adjustable chair if possible: one that tips backwards and allows the sitter to change position (hag-uk.co.uk). If you are using a straight-back ‘ordinary’ chair, try adding a specially designed seat back, a wedge or a lumbar roll in the small of your back (posturite.co.uk).
Lighting is important. An ill-lit room can cause students to adopt uncomfortable postures craning to see what they are working on.
Like adults, children should take regular breaks to get up and move around. This may have multiple benefits: recently a small study of healthy children showed that three-minute walking breaks every half hour activated muscles. This could help clear insulin from the bloodstream, which will protect against type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
THE BREAST CANCER COOKBOOK
Consultant breast cancer specialist Professor Mohammed Keshtgar has become ‘increasingly convinced that diet and lifestyle are contributing factors to the development of cancer’. In his excellent book, The Breast Cancer Cookbook (Quadrille, £20), written with colleagues at the Royal Free Hospital in London, he explains how eating well (in tandem with taking exercise, reducing or giving up alcohol and stopping smoking) can help prevent breast cancer as well as benefiting those going through treatment. The writing is wonderfully lucid and the recipes tempting.
Q. How long is it safe to keep make-up?
A. Experts agree that mascara and liquid eyeliner should be replaced every three to four months because you put bacteria into the tube every time you replace the wand. Liquid foundation can remain stable for up to a year if you store it in a cool place: if you have acne-prone skin it is vital to apply it with a clean brush or sponge (not your finger) to avoid transferring bacteria. Lipgloss is safe for at least six months and lipstick for a year. Always wash your brushes regularly.
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk
Dyspraxia (developmental coordination disorder) affects around five per cent of the population. The symptoms include frequently falling over, difficulty walking up and down stairs, poor hand-eye coordination, short-term memory problems, lack of spatial awareness, difficulty getting dressed and/or applying make-up and illegible handwriting. According to the Dyspraxia Foundation, many girls and young women slip through the net in terms of early diagnosis, which can have a huge negative impact on their lives. Dyspraxia Awareness Week, which starts today, highlights the issues and launches new resources for parents, teachers and employers. Helpline: 01462-454986.