Staff Reporter
AWKWARD posture and feeling discomfort whilst lying in bed increases the risk of suffering from back pain by 1'382 percent, in the same way that practicing competition sport heightens the same risk by 23 percent. Francisco Kovacs, chairman of the Foundation of the same name, explained yesterday that a study of back pain, in which 7'048 students and 9'309 parents took part, indicates that girls are 11 percent more likely to suffer back pain. He announced that at the beginning of next year, the Kovacs Foundation will have finalised research which will pinpoint the reasons for discomfort in bed and how to avoid it. People who have one leg longer than the other and those who suffer from curvature of the spine have a 26 percent, and a 287 percent more possibility, respectively, of getting back trouble. This tendency, however, can be corrected through specific exercises, confirmed Kovacs. The research also illustrates that the frequency with which adolescents get this type of ailment is higher than that orginally believed. He warned that the infirmity affects the quality of life and increases the risk of suffering from chronic illness as an adult. To avoid back pain, Kovacs recommended exercise, although he advised verifying the competence of teachers who train pupils in competitive sport, owing to the high risk that this activity carries of furthering back pain. He also promoted the use of adjustable seating in school centres to compensate for the physical differences in pupils aged between 13 and 15.
The research determined that the number of hours that a student spends sitting down, his weight and height, the way pupils carry school books around with them, the consumption of alcohol and smoking bear no relation to the degree of back pain experienced. These findings were directly the contrary to those advocated by some specialists, he added. As a result, Kovacs ventured “it makes no sense” for parents to buy special “contraptions” to make it easier to carry school books around. It is simpler to reduce the amount of weight carried in satchels or rucksacks, so that it doesn't exceed 10 percent of the body weight of the student, he specified. The study carried out by the Kovacs Foundation revealed that more than half of Majorcan school children, some 50.9 percent of the boys and 69.3 percent of the girls, have suffered from some kind of back pain. This is equivalent to 3.7 percent of the female student population and 1 percent of the males. Similarly, 30.7 percent of the girls had put a limit on their daily activities because of back pain and 32.4 percent had consulted a doctor over it.
In the case of boys, 21 percent had restricted their daily activities due to back discomfort and 22 percent had received treatment for the condition.
The Balearic Health Minister, Aina Castillo, confirmed that 80 percent of the adult population of the Islands suffer from back conditions. She advocated preventitive health measures in order to increase quality of life, and said that government funding needs to support an awareness-raising campaign. The proposal was supported by the head of Education and Culture, Francesc Fiol, who said his department would set up a programme to inform school students of how the discomfort and misery of back pain can be avoided. The study, which has been published in the “European Journal of Public Health”, began in 1998 and has resulted in Majorca becoming “an essential reference point” in the investigation of back pain, reported Kovacs. He verified that the results of the survey would go towards increasing knowledge on how best to prevent the condition. The study has received support from the Balearic Ministries of Education and Culture, and of Health and Consumer Affairs; the Official College of Medical Practitioners in the Balearics; and the electricity supply company, Gesa.

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