With NSW HSC exams starting today and Victorian VCE exams starting 2 weeks later, students across the Border are madly picking up the study pace. At this time of year Physiotherapists find an increase in younger people presenting with neck pain and headaches, low back ache and in some cases debilitating pain that can actually prevent the student sitting the exams themselves.
Prevention is the best cure so planning for those increased hours studying for exams can reduce the risk of spinal pain occurring.
- Have a dedicated study area. Studying on the bed or the lounge may appear a comfortable way to study, especially with the portability of technology such as laptop computers and iPads, but a well set up desk with an adjustable chair and well positioned computer not only helps to focus the mind on the task at hand, but maintaining a comfortably upright posture reduces the load on spinal ligaments and discs. A simple and cheap support such as a lumbar roll can encourage the maintenance of the normal spinal curves.
- Plan regular changes in position. Postural muscles fatigue in static positions and allow the posture to sag. This increases the risk of neck and back ache. Plan to stretch every 30 minutes by reversing the position you have been in such as arching the low back gently backwards and stretching arms behind your back. Get up from the seated position at least once an hour to encourage circulation and movement. Setting a mobile phone alarm helps as a reminder.
- Schedule regular exercise breaks. This assists with stretching tight muscles and joints. As little as a 20 minute walk with the dog or shooting some hoops on the basketball court can reduce stress levels and energise the body and mind for the next study session. A study by scientists at Cambridge University in the UK suggests that regular exercise such as running can actually boost memory.
So for anyone approaching Year 12 final exams, tackling an evening TAFE course, and or preparing for end of semester university exams, thinking of your body, allows you to keep focused on the task at hand ( and keeps the chemistry teacher happy!).