The Busy Back

Back Week 2005
Topic: “The Busy Back”

Slogan: “Your back is your future”. A document to use in your own marketing
of our profession
Dear Physiotherapy Colleagues

‘The Busy Back’ theme is divided into 5 parts
with different topics, spaced throughout the year, working up to Physiotherapy
Back Week, 12 - 16 September 2005.

The first part is scheduled for January 2005, targeting younger people
- scholars and students.

Areas to target: Schools, after school centers, shopping centers, libraries

Media releases will be coordinated throughout the country. Copies of
these articles will be e- mailed to the Provincial Offices, Provincial
Chairpersons as well as the Provincial PRO’s.

Suggestions: Try to affect your closest connections
first: Your child’s class/school; parents belonging to a book club/Bible
study group etc; a sport club – and adapt the talk to the situation!

Points to keep in mind when talking to scholars or students:

  • Keep your talk applicable to the age group you are addressing.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Use layman’s language.
  • Make it interesting and fun ( for yourself as well).
  • Make use of visual aids i.e. props, the PhysioFriends, PowerPoint
    presentations, demonstrations etc.
  • Use balloons / fruit juice packaging / special treats / pens etc.
    with a Back Care tip added to it to enforce your message.
  • String up colored beads on a bendable wire. Use a different color
    for the different areas e.g. 7 green “cervical” 12 yellow “thoracic”
    5 brown “lumbar” 1 tubular form to act as the sacrum. Use this string
    to demonstrate the normal curves of the spine.
  • String up beads as above but use string that can break easily. Keep
    in a bowl for the last part.

    End talk by breaking this string over the bowl to catch you beads for
    re-use. * p5
Introduce yourself


“ My name is….. I am a Physiotherapist and belong to the Society of Physiotherapy.
We try to help the people of South Africa to learn to have healthy backs,
so they can move freely and enjoy themselves more. Now it is your turn
to learn more.

Why?..... We believe that if you as young people look
after your backs while you are growing up, you’ll have less trouble with
your backs later on in life.

Our slogan is: ‘The difference is in our hands’ Physiotherapists
use their hands and specific exercises to correct physical problems. But…
this slogan also means that you can take responsibility for feeling good
into your own hands.

Let’s talk about some simple ways that you can take more care
of your back:

1. You and your school bag

2. You and your studies

2.1 Desk

2.2 Chair

2.3 Computer

2.3.1 Keyboard

2.3.2 Pointing device, i.e. mouse

2.3.3 Screen

2.3.4 Lighting

3. You and your free time

3.1 Movement is necessary for strong bones, muscles and tendons

3.2 You need a physical activity you enjoy - to get rid of stress
You and your school
  • Suggestion for prop: Schoolbag with books; scale; skate board.

This is how you lot tend to carry your bags, isn’t it?

(Demonstrate exaggerated posture, shoulders on an incredible slant)

Check it out – your knuckles practically dragging on the floor like a

This happens because you carry your bag with the strap over one shoulder
only. You have to pull that shoulder up to stop the strap from slipping
off. As a result your neck muscles tense up. After a while, your spine
will tend to curve to one side. This will happen at any time you are involved
in repeated activities which force your body to be asymmetrical – on a
slant. It happens to girls carrying handbags on one shoulder all the time,
it happens to kids who walk along with one foot pushing a skateboard and
also to anybody who carries shopping bags in one hand.

Try not to do things which make your back or neck lean to one side or
the other for a long time. Change your posture frequently!

Here are some more tips: (demonstrate)

  • Don’t overload your bag (up to 15% of you body weight max. ) Don’t
    carry unnecessary items!
  • Place the heaviest items closest to your body / back.
  • Position books in such a way that they don’t slide inside your pack
    – it becomes unbalanced.
  • Always wear both shoulder straps.
  • Shoulder straps should be well-padded to prevent too much pressure
    on the shoulders and necks.
  • Adjust straps so that pack fit snugly to the back. The bottom of
    the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. The bottom of the
    pack should not be higher than 10cm below the waistline.
  • If the pack has a waistband, use it. This belt helps to distribute
    the pack’s weight more evenly.
  • Stand and walk up straight – hold your head high!
and your studies
  • Suggestion for prop : Desk; chair; keyboard; mouse; pc screen; volunteer
    to demonstrate.

Start of by asking a question such as: “Whom of you
do not study at home? “ - or something to focus their attention on the
next topic.

The time you spend slaving over your desk can affect your back, so you
must really sit in the best possible position possible. Both the chair
and the desk must be adjusted to suit your height.

Here are some tips on the chair: (demonstrate)

  • Both feet should be flat on the floor. If the chair is too high,
    rest the feet on a footstool / old books / brick etc.
  • Knees should be at ± 90° - Both thighs should be fully supported.
  • The back of the chair should support your back (back to back)
  • Don’t sit perched on the front of the chair.
  • Don’t lie in the chair.
  • Don’t sit for long periods at a time – take short breaks after ±
    every 30 minutes
  • Change positions frequently
Here are some tips on the desk: (demonstrate)
  • The desktop should be at ± your elbow level when you are sitting.
  • Pull your chair up to your desk. Avoid bending forward to reach.
  • If you cannot avoid this, bend at the hips and not the back.
  • Don’t poke your chin forward.
  • The ideal desktop is on a slight slope, so that you don’t need to
    lean over your work.
  • If your desk can’t be inclined, prop up your work with another book
    / book rest / copy holder so it’s raised.
Here are some tips on using a computer: (demonstrate)
  • Adjust the keyboard height so that your shoulders are relaxed, your
    elbows slightly open (100º - 110º) and your wrists and hands straight.
  • Position the keyboard directly in front of you.
  • Determine which part of the keyboard you use most and centre that
    part with your body.
  • Adjust the keyboard tilt to accommodate your position. If you are
    sitting upright, keep the keyboard flat; if you are sitting slightly
    back, tilt the keyboard towards you.
  • Wrist rests can help to maintain a neutral position and pad hard
    surfaces. These should be used to rest the palms of the hands between
    keystrokes and not during typing. Do not park the wrists on the rest
    and move them side to side and up and down
  • Select a pointing device that is the right size and shape for your
    hand – it should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.
  • Keep your hand relaxed – “Don’t kill the mouse!” When not using the
    device, let it go.
  • Relax your fingers – do not hold them above the activation buttons.
  • Relax your thumb – don’t keep it in a bent position.
  • Avoid excessive movements of the thumb when using the trackball –
    use your fingers to spread the load.
  • Make use of keyboard shortcut keys – work smart!
  • Centre the monitor directly in front of you above the keyboard.
  • Position the top of the monitor ± 5-7.5 cm above your eye level
  • Sit at least an arms length away from the screen and then adjust
    the distance for your vision.
  • Position documents directly in front of you, between the monitor
    and the keyboard. If there is insufficient space, use a document holder
    adjacent to the monitor.
  • Reduce glare by placing the screen at right angles to windows.
  • Adjust curtains / blinds as needed; Tilt the screen to avoid reflections
  • Follow up with easy exercises and stretches.
    • Do you lie on your bed to do homework , to read or watch TV?
    • Do you lie on the floor to do homework, to read or watch TV?


Muscles like to work.

They almost never hurt when they are used … only when they are abused!

Strain = Pain


You and your free time

OUCH!! Are you a coach potato??

Balance is the key to success (A healthy mind in a healthy body.)

When watching TV, all the above tips for sitting can be applied.

Some more tips: (demonstrate)

  • Sit up straight, buttocks in the corner of the seat, head up and
    your back fully supported.
  • Don’t sit with your legs tucked underneath you on the seat.
  • Don’t sit on the floor.
When doing sit-ups:
  • Keep your knees bent
  • Support your chin on your chest
  • Hold the back of your head with your hands
  • Lift your head and shoulders
  • Keep you tummy pulled in the whole time
When doing stretches:
  • Stretching is vital before you do any exercise.
  • Hold each stretch up to 20 seconds.
  • Repeat each stretch 3 times.
    • No Pain ; No Bounce.
    • Demonstrate 2 easy stretches – 1 x arm; 1 x leg.
When lifting objects:
  • Lifting can put strain on your spine.
  • Use your legs to do the work – not your back!
  • Tighten your stomach muscles before you lift
  • Lifting incorrectly causes strain = pain!
  • Never bend down from the hips to pick something from the floor.
  • Plan ahead
  • Place your feet shoulder width apart
  • Tighten your stomach muscles
  • Squat down near the object, keep your back straight.(like a weightlifter)
  • Clutch the object close to your body
  • Straighten your knees and stand up.
  • Do not jerk
  • Change your position by using your feet .Do not twist your spine
    – your nose should always be in-line with your toes.
  • If the object is too heavy - get help.
  • Stand at either side of the object, facing the same way.
  • Squad and lift the object at the same time ( count to 3 )
  • When putting an object down, follow the same rules.


Avoid sleeping on your tummy. This twists
your neck!

  • Sleep on your sides or on your back, keeping the spine in a
    neutral position.
  • Keep your pillow under your neck.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.

In some ways, your back is the most important
part of you. You depend on your back to keep upright and to keep moving
– just imagine how you’d fall apart if your spine disappeared! (* Break
the beads on a string)

The back takes a lot of strain and it needs to be treated just
the way you would like to be treated – kindly and with understanding.

I hope what I’ve told you today help you be kind to your back and keep
it happy for years to come!

Provincial Branches

Gauteng Limpopo Mpumalanga Kwazulu Natal Free State Western Cape Eastern Cape Northern Cape North West