Back to School: 4 Keys to a Healthy Spine in the Classroom

Back to School: 4 Keys to a Healthy Spine in the Classroom

For some, the words “back to school” spark feelings of excitement and anticipation. For others, “back to school” is synonymous with “summer is over, and soon we’ll have snow.” No matter where you fall on this spectrum, there’s no denying that back-to-school time is upon us. As both teachers and students head to school, here’s 4 Keys to a Healthy Spine in the Classroom. Share this list with the educators and scholars in your life!

Back to School: 4 Keys to a Healthy Spine in the Classroom

Key 1: Sit and Stand Up with Good Posture

We’re likely not the first to remind you of the importance of proper posture. Sitting puts a lot of pressure on the low back. Since students spend much of the day sitting at desks, it’s vital that good posture is maintained throughout the day. Help your student out by going over the basics with him or her:

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor in front of you. If your feet don’t reach the floor, place your feet on a footrest.
  • Don’t cross your legs – your ankles should be in front of your knees.
  • Adjust your seat so that your knees are at or below the level of your hips.
  • Relax your shoulders and keep forearms parallel to the ground.
  • Adjust the back of the chair to support the low- and mid-back.

On the flip side, teachers spend much of the day standing. By standing throughout the day with good posture, teachers will keep their bones and joints in correct alignment, thus reducing the stress on ligaments and minimizing the likelihood of injury. To stand properly, follow these tips:

  • Bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet.
  • Keep one foot slightly in front of the other with knees slightly bent.
  • After standing for a long time, begin shifting your weight from your toes to your heels and from one foot to the other.
  • Keep your head level, with earlobes in line with your shoulders.
  • Tuck your stomach in and stand straight and talk with your shoulders pulled back.

Both students and teachers can benefit by varying their stances throughout the day. For students, try not to sit in the same position for long periods of time. Take advantage of times to get up and walk around the classroom, down the hallway and out at recess. For teachers, sit (with good posture!) at your desk when possible.

Key 2: Carry a Properly Sized Bag

It’s easy for both students and teachers to overload on the amount they’re carrying around in backpacks and bags at any one time. Students should carry a backpack that weighs only 10% of their own weight. For a student who weighs 50 pounds, his or her backpack should only weigh 7.5 pounds. Read more about why backpacks matter for students here.

Students aren’t the only ones guilty of carrying too heavy of a load. Teachers commonly carry home homework to grade, a laptop, professional development books to read and more – often in messenger bags or totes that hang off of one shoulder. Instead, teachers should follow the same rules as students: bags should not weigh more than 10% of the teacher’s weight, and a bag with two straps, one for each shoulder, should be used.

Key 3: Wear Proper Footwear

From flipflops to 3-inch heels, shoes that do nothing to help the spine can be found all over the school. Shoes play an important role in supporting the low back. Teachers and students should wear shoes that provide a supportive base to keep the spine and bones in alignment.

Key 4: Support Your Spine While Sleeping

After a long day in the classroom, teachers and students should give their spines the chance to relax and be rejuvenated. When teachers and students lay down at night, it’s important that their spines have a chance to rest up and prepare for the next day. Follow the below tips to achieve the best sleeping position.

  • When choosing a mattress, pick the one that is right for you. For parents, this means you’ll need to take your student mattress shopping. A firm mattress is generally more recommended, but it’s primarily a matter of personal preference. If a softer mattress reduces back pain, go with a softer mattress.
  • Sleep with a pillow.
  • Try to sleep on your side or back. If sleeping on your side, tuck a pillow between your legs. If sleeping on your back, tuck the pillow under your knees.

If you’d like to discuss further tips for maintaining a healthy spine, reach out to us at or give us a call at 847-842-8070. Drs. Van Ness, Parkin and Sabri are happy to answer any questions!


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