Taking the pain out of teaching: how to improve MSK health in teachers and lecturers

Taking the pain out of teaching: how to improve MSK health in teachers and lecturers

Teachers and university lecturers carry a significant weight on their shoulders in educating the next generation. In many cases, the demands of the teaching profession also place a great deal of physical weight and strain on their shoulders, backs and necks, leading to a range of musculoskeletal (MSK) issues and injuries. 

The role of a teacher or lecturer is extremely varied. A typical day could involve long periods of standing to teach a class, prolonged sitting to plan lessons, repetitive tasks such as marking and carrying around heavy books and folders. The most common MSK issues amongst teaching staff are equally varied, ranging from lower back pain to neck pain and repetitive strain injury (RSI).

Did you know? A study amongst 893 teachers revealed a 48.7% prevalence of neck or shoulder pain and a 45.6% prevalence of lower back pain.

Why are MSK issues so common in teaching staff?

Many of the behaviours, tasks and activities involved in a typical teaching role put staff at an increased risk of developing MSK pain: 

  • Standing for several hours a day – spending most of the day on your feet can predispose you to lower back pain, circulation problems in your lower limbs, fatigue and reduced productivity. 
  • Frequent twisting and turning backwards – most teachers and lecturers frequently turn their heads throughout their lessons and lectures to look at whiteboards, projectors or screens, increasing their risk of neck pain
  • Insufficient breaks – when you’re tied to a strict teaching timetable, it can be difficult to take enough breaks throughout the day. Lessons and lectures typically last an hour or longer, giving teachers and lecturers limited opportunities to stretch and move their body.
  • Prolonged sitting – certain aspects of teaching such as planning lessons and marking involve sitting for long periods of time. These requirements put teachers and lecturers at risk of developing MSK issues like back and neck pain, similar to those who work in desk-based office jobs.
  • Lack of ergonomic equipment – most classrooms and lecture-rooms only have stools or basic chairs without proper back support. Therefore, when teachers and lecturers do have a chance to sit, they are more likely to adopt bad posture. 
  • Writing on whiteboards and chalkboards – doing this for hours a day puts a lot of strain on the wrist and shoulders, increasing the risk of repetitive strain injury.
  • Carrying heavy items – bags of textbooks, exam papers, folders, exercise books for a whole class…teachers and lecturers are required to carry many heavy items on a daily basis, often up flights of stairs as many schools and universities do not have lifts. This can lead to back and shoulder pain.
  • Stress – teaching is often a stressful job which can be highly demanding on your mental and physical health. Pain and mental health are closely intertwined and poor mental health can make you much more susceptible to MSK pain.

How VIDA can help reduce MSK pain in teaching staff

As you can see, there are many MSK health risks involved in the day to day role of a teacher or lecturer. It’s important for schools and universities to provide teachers and lecturers with the necessary resources and support to protect their MSK health. 

Vitrue VIDA is a digital workspace assessment clinically proven to reduce MSK issues like back pain, which are extremely common amongst teaching staff. Here’s how VIDA can fit seamlessly into your ergonomics program to make a positive difference to the health and wellbeing of teachers and lecturers:

  • AI webcam assessment – measures your posture and detects whether you’re putting unnecessary strain on your neck or shoulders, helping teachers and lecturers avoid developing pain when carrying out desk-related tasks such as marking. 
  • Interactive workspace planner – allows you to recreate your exact working environment, to generate tailored recommendations to reduce any risks in that workspace. Teachers and lecturers typically work in lots of different places, so they can repeat the assessment as many times as they like to reduce MSK health risks wherever they work. 
  • Pain Coach – a personalised pain management programme with exercises tailored to your individual needs and pain levels. The exercises only take a few minutes, enabling teachers and lecturers to squeeze short bursts of activity into their busy schedules! They can also access a library of educational content and learn how to keep MSK pain at bay.
  • Analytics Dashboard – VIDA analytics gives you a window into your staff’s workplace setups, habits, pain levels and ergonomic needs. It can help you identify which teachers or lecturers may need some additional support or equipment to keep MSK pain away and improve their overall wellbeing. 

For more information on how VIDA can help reduce MSK issues amongst teachers and lecturers, get in touch with us at sales@vitruehealth.com or try out VIDA yourself for free!

Content Marketing Manager

Marisa has over 7 years of experience writing about a range of clinical topics including DSE, hybrid working and employee wellbeing. Check out more of Marisa's articles on the Vitrue Health blog!

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