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3 Things Teachers Can Do in the Classroom to Avoid Back Pain

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The recommendations provided on this page are for educational purposes only and are not to be interpreted as medical advice or a recommendation for a specific treatment plan, product, or course of action. Please consult your provider for personalized medical advice.

Teaching is a selfless profession, in more ways than one. Although it does not seem like a physical job, the endless dedication and day-to-day demands can add up on the body. All the hours of standing, sitting, bending, and shuffling to various activities puts teachers at risk for developing muscle and joint problems—most notably low back pain.  

The good news is that simple solutions are within reach. Read on for ways teachers can improve how they feel and protect their bodies for years to come.

1. Ace your posture

Standing up straight is important for teachers, too. A 2021 study showed that posture education alone can improve the prevalence of low back pain in primary school teachers (Vindal-Conti, 2021). Here are tips to keep in mind (put them on sticky notes as reminders) to practice top form throughout the day.

When seated

  • Adjust the height of your chair so your feet rest flat on the floor.
  • Try not to cross your legs. It can stress your hips and low back.  
  • Leave a little breathing room between the back of your knees and the front of your seat.

When viewing a screen

  • Keep your monitor slightly below eye level.
  • Adjust the height of your keyboard so that your shoulders can relax and your forearms can stay parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your head in line with your torso and balanced between your shoulders.

2. Practice key exercises

These simple exercises help open up tight shoulders and reduce strain in your lower back. Bonus points: You can do them anywhere—in the classroom, at home, or on-the-go!

Standing lumbar extension

This mini-back bend is a great stretch to do throughout your day, especially if you are stuck at a desk. Take some standing breaks and try a couple reps. Gently push your hips forward and arch back until you feel a light stretch.

Shoulder blade squeeze

This exercise helps open your shoulders and strengthen your upper back. Start seated or standing and imagine a pencil positioned in between your shoulder blades. Squeeze or pinch the pencil by bringing your shoulder blades together and hold for three seconds. Aim for six to eight reps.

Doorway pec stretch

Your pectoralis muscles (the muscles in the front of your chest) can get tight from working on a computer or writing on a white board.  For this stretch, stand in a doorway with your elbows at shoulder height and forearms resting on the door frame. Take a small step forward with one leg until you feel a nice stretch across the front of your chest.

3. Take a break

Prolonged sitting is a leading cause of neck and back pain (Kallings, 2021). Standing up throughout the day can reduce lower back stress and increase energy and focus. Aim for a five minute break once per hour. Consider a standing desk, or get students involved as a fun way for everyone to feel better and take a standing break together.

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