The dark side of studying

Improper posture when studying leaves students with long-term physical consequences

Hours spent hunched over textbooks and computers can lead students to experience negative physical repercussions.

Attention all daredevils: if you’ve already tried your hand at extreme sports from skydiving to heli-skiing and are now searching for your next risk, look no further than studying for your next midterm.

Despite its seemingly harmless nature, doing schoolwork has the potential to lead to severe physical consequences.

In order to keep up with their increasingly heavy workloads, students often sit for long periods of time at a desk with poor posture, putting them at risk for not only short-term physical effects, but permanent health complications.

Anna Balodis, a licenced occupational therapist, has encountered students that are physically suffering due to incorrect positioning when studying. “Looking at the short-term effects, improperly sitting all day can cause neck and back pain, eye strain and headaches,” Balodis said.

Balodis warned of the potential long-term outcomes of maintaining poor posture when working at a desk. “Obesity, changes in spinal curves, nerve impingement, chronic pain and venous insufficiency are possible consequences of consistently poor posture,” Balodis said.

Mackenzie Cooper Young, a second-year arts student, reported experiencing discomfort after prolonged studying. “If I’m studying and slumped over my notes for a few hours, my back will get sore and my neck tends to crack more.”

As a freestyle skier, Cooper Young has suffered many injuries, but attributes the discomfort when doing schoolwork to the act of studying alone. “I’d be hard pressed to think of a body part I haven’t hurt while skiing,” Cooper Young said, “but the pain when I’m studying isn’t from a preexisting injury.”

Cooper Young has found relief by switching up his position when studying and taking breaks. “I try changing my posture from time to time, and I find taking breaks every once in a while to stretch helps,” Cooper Young said.

Balodis suggested solutions for the resulting discomfort and ways to avoid permanent physical damage. “Prevention would include proper ergonomic set up of the work space,” Balodis said, “and regular movement breaks to change position, stretch or go for a walk.”

Former Mount Allison student Stacey McCann pursued physiotherapy after finishing her degree at Mt. A, and commonly treats students with health complications from working at a desk.

“The most common type of injury I see with students is neck or back pain resulting from either overworked, weak, or tight muscles,” McCann said. “Over time, people sometimes develop a head forward posture leading to increased pressure on the neck.”

McCann offers manual therapy services and modalities for pain control after pain and stiffness from working at a desk, but stressed the importance of education in injury prevention. “Education regarding proper positioning to correct the aggravating factor of the injury is really key to fixing the problem.” She said, “There is a lot involved with proper positioning, including the height of your chair, the height of the desk [and] the distance of the computer.”

Soper Physiotherapy provides services in Sackville for students with injuries from improper positioning when studying, and can be contacted for information at (506) 536-8081 or sphysio@bellaliant.com.

Jessica Firminger
Jessica Firminger is a fourth-year biology major from Sackville, NB and a winter enthusiast. When she’s not hitting the books, she’s hitting the slopes.