With the rise of tablets and smartphones as well as the multiplicity of television channels, games on computers and educational apps Children and teens are increasingly watching screen displays, typically with poor posture, which could cause back discomfort, in addition to other ailments.

A study carried out by Brazilian researchers, which was funded by FAPESP and published in an article that was published in the journal of science Health that identified a variety of risk factors that could affect spinal health, like being in front of screens for more than 3 hours in a day, the proximity between the eye and screens, and lying or sitting in a stomach position.

The study was focused on the thoracic spine discomfort (TSP). Thoracic spine is situated in on the back in the chest (the thorax) and is located generally within the shoulders and extends from the lower part of the neck until the point of entry at the base of the lumbar spine. The data that was analysed came from studies of 14-18-year-old male and female students during both the initial and 2nd year of their high schools in Bauru which is a medium-sized city located in Sao Paulo state.

The baseline questionnaire was filled out between March and June 2017 by 1,628 people and 1,393 of them completed the follow-up questionnaire in the year 2018. The study revealed the one-year prevalence to be 38.4 percent (the percentage of respondents reporting TSP in both follow-up and baseline questionnaires) as well as a single-year prevalence of 10.1 percent (new TSP reported only in the follow-up survey). Girls were more likely than boys to report TSP.

Risk factors

TSP is common across all age categories of the general population The prevalence ranges from 15% to 35% in adults and 13%-35% among teens and children. Rapid growth in the usage of electronic devices in the COVID-19 epidemic clearly caused the issue to get worse. The risk factors for TSP are physiological, physical as well as psychological and behavioral according to a variety of studies. There is also evidence of the impact of the physical activity, sedentary practices and mental health disorders upon spinal health. All of these aspects are considered to be critical according to World Health Organization (WHO) in its most recent review of research and guidelines.

The results of the study could be used to help inform health education programs for students in schools staff, teachers, and parents.”

Alberto de Vitta, first author of the article.

He is a doctoral student on education at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and has completed an postdoctoral fellowship on public health in Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) in Botucatu.

“This is aligned with the goals that are part of the national curriculum parameters PCN: Brazilian school guidelines issued by the government for students in secondary schoolsin accordance with the guidelines, schools are responsible for health education and the identification of risk factors to the health of both the individual and the community and strategies to counter these, as well as teaching self-care behaviors regarding the body’s capabilities and limitations,” said Vitta, who is working and studying in Eduvale College as a faculty member of its Department of Physical Therapy in Avare, Sao Paulo state and at the University of Sapucai Valley’s Graduate Program in Education, Knowledge and Society in Pouso Alegre, Minas Gerais state.

Information about risks for TSP for teens in high school is vital as children and adolescents suffering from back discomfort are less active perform less academically, and are more prone to psychosocial issues as per the report. Furthermore, fewer investigations have taken place on TSP as compared to the lower back or neck discomfort. A comprehensive review of the research literature on TSP discovered only two prospective studies on prognostic variables.

Others who contributed to the work include Matias Noll of the Federal Institute of Goias (IFG) and the Federal University of Goias’s School of Physical Education and Dance (FEFD-UFG) in Brazil; Nicoly Machado Maciel from the University of Sao Paulo (USP) as well as Manuel Monfort Panego and Vicente Minana Signes of the University of Valencia in Spain.

Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

Journal reference:

De Vitta, A., et al. (2023). Thoracic Spine Pain in adolescents of high school A One-Year Longitudinal Research Study. Healthcare. doi.org/10.3390/healthcare11020196.