All posts in Children’s Health

Backpacks Don’t Have to Mean Back Pain

An increase in bright yellow busses rolling up and down Apex streets means one thing: school is back in session!

It also means most children are carrying backpacks, sometimes VERY HEAVY backpacks, which can cause more damage than you might imagine.

Here are a few tips to help you this school year and beyond.

Carry no more than 15% of your body weight!

If you weigh 150 pounds…that means the recommended limit is 15 pounds, but you should definitely never carry more than 22.5 pounds. If your backpack is heavier than that, your posture can be altered.

If you carry heavy loads for long periods of time it can seriously hurt your back.Backpack

Put heavier items at the bottom of your backpack.

Studies show that if your heavier items are on the bottom of your backpack, it has a lesser effect on your spinal curvature.

Even things out!

When you’re filling your backpack, place an even amount of weight on both the right and left sides. Studies show that this will reduce lateral spinal motion and ultimately be better for the wellbeing of your back.

Always wear both straps.

The neck is a major weak point in the spinal column.

To take pressure off the neck area always place both straps of a backpack over your shoulder. It allows you to place the load evenly across both upper trap muscles.

Make sure your backpack fits properly!

The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.

As always, the American Chiropractic Association is an excellent resource if you’re looking for more information.

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Chiropractic care for children

Because it’s a question we get quite often from our patients, this week, we’re going to take a comprehensive look at how children can benefit from chiropractic care.

Is chiropractic safe for children?

Several large-scale research studies have been published verifying the safety and effectiveness of chiropractic care for kids. Additionally, the amount of force used to adjust an infant is comparable to the amount of force used to test a ripe tomato at the grocery store.

Why do kids need chiropractic care?

chiropractic care for kidsChildhood is a period of very rapid growth and development. Bones model in response to outside physical stresses placed upon them. Proper joint motion is need to distribute these forces for optimal bone development. During growth spurts, balance in the joints and muscles is particularly important.

Just like their bones, children’s nervous systems are also developing very rapidly. The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, and the millions and millions of nerves. The nervous system covers every inch of your body and controls the majority of its functions.

Just like the bones need proper joint motion for optimal development, so do the nerves in order to develop optimal communication.

Is chiropractic care the same for kids and adults?

Although the basic premise for chiropractic care is the same whether the patient is 70 years old or 7 weeks old, the rapidly growing and developing active little bodies of children have specific needs based on their stage of development. Generally, children respond much faster and more completely to chiropractic care than adults do.

If you have questions about your children receiving chiropractic care, give the office a call and we’ll be happy to help you!

 

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Tips To Prevent Back Pain From Backpacks

girl-with-backpackAs I stated in the previous post, children are developing more and more cases of back pain from using backpacks.  So as parents, what can you do?  The American Chiropractic Association offers the following tips to help prevent the pain that backpack misuse could cause the students in your household:

  • Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.
  • The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.
  • A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back.
  • Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry-and the heavier the backpack will be.
  • Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
  • Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child’s shoulders.
  • The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
  • If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child’s teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.
  • Although the use of rollerpacks – or backpacks on wheels – has become popular in recent years, many schools, as well as the American Chiropractic Association, are now recommending that they be used cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack. In fact, some school districts have begun banning the use of rollerpacks because they clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous trips and falls.

If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call your doctor of chiropractic. Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In addition, doctors of chiropractic can also prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.

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Backpack Use Leads to Chronic Back Pain

schoolkids-2I was watching a morning news show over Labor Day weekend and they quoted a study that 60 percent of children complain of back pain from their backpacks, some of which continue to have back problems long after they stopped carrying the packs.  Back pain is pervasive among American adults, but now it’s becoming disturbingly more prevalent among young children.  More and more children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor.  In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that backpack-related injuries sent more than 21,000 people to the emergency room, doctor’s offices, and clinics in 2003 alone.

This new back pain trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks – often slung over just one shoulder.   In many cases these students are carrying 30-40% of their body weight.  In fact, studies being conducted in France show that the longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for a curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself.  Ultimately, what needs to be considered is whether the deformity will ever return to normal.   

The results of these types of studies are especially important as more and more school districts are not letting their students keep their books in lockers, forcing the students to carry their books with them all day long.  The problem has become so widespread, in fact, that the California State Assembly passed legislation that would force school districts to develop ways of reducing the weight of students’ backpacks. Similar legislation is being considered in New Jersey as well.  

In our next blog post we will discuss what can be done to help prevent pain from using a backpack.

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Wearing a Backpack Properly Can Save Your Child’s Back

girl-with-backpackNational School Backpack Awareness Day is an annual event held on the third Wednesday of every September.  Being aware of how your child is wearing their backpack is important because it can affect their health.  In one study of American students ages 11-15, 64% of them reported back pain related to heavy backpacks, and 21% of those children stated that the pain lasted for more than 6 months.  So backpacks are causing our kids to have chronic back pain.  And it is not just the young ones; a study by Boston University found that approximately 85% of university students reported discomfort and pain from backpack usage.  But there is hope, in a study on the effect of backpack education on student behavior and health, nearly 8 out of 10 middle school students who changed how they loaded and wore their backpacks reported less pain and strain on their backs, necks and shoulders.

In order to help prevent back & neck problems from carrying a book-bag, it must be loaded and worn properly.  To begin with, a backpack should be chosen that fits your child’s frame.  Its height should be no longer than the distance from 2 inches below your child’s shoulders to their waistline or even slightly above the waist.  The pack should have well-padded shoulder straps in order to protect the blood vessels and nerves that are in the neck and shoulder area.  A book-bag with a waist belt is also preferred because it helps to take some of the weight off of their shoulders and neck and distributes the weight more evenly across their back.

When you load the backpack, be aware that it should weigh no more than 15% of their body weight (so a 100 pound child should carry a backpack weighing no more than 15 pounds).  When loading the items, make sure the heaviest items are loaded closest to the child’s back, and arrange the materials so they won’t move around inside.   Obviously, your child needs to transport certain items back and forth to school with them, but if something isn’t necessary for that day’s activities, you may want to leave it out in order to lighten the load.  If your child consistently carries a heavier than recommended book-bag, you may want to consider purchasing one on wheels if your school allows it.  However, these backpacks as a rule are generally heavier than traditional packs and are harder to maneuver on and off buses as well as up and down stairs.  Ultimately, they may be more of a problem than what they are worth.

When wearing a backpack, the weight should be distributed evenly on both shoulders by using both straps.  Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing back pain.  Make sure that the straps are adjusted so that they fit snugly and allow the backpack to remain close to the child’s back.  A pack that hangs too loosely can pull the child backwards and strain their back muscles.  Again, wearing a waist belt will help keep the backpack snug against the back.  Ultimately, the bottom of the book-bag should never rest more than 4 inches below the child’s waistline.

Wearing a properly loaded and weighted backpack can help prevent your child from developing chronic back pain and keep their spine healthier.  If you have any questions about your child’s backpack, feel free to contact me or I am sure your own chiropractor will be more than willing to help fit your child’s backpack properly.

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