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Backpack Safety

More than 40 million students carry backpacks in America today. Many of these same students carry their backpacks overloaded or fit improperly resulting in a variety of injuries including neck pain, muscle spasms, tingling hands, headaches and lower back pain. This very pain may result in the increasing possibility of damage on posture and development of the spine. In 2003 the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported nearly 21,000 children were seen in emergency rooms for backpack related injuries.

As parents there are a number of important issues you need to know in order to prevent backpack injury and promote spinal health. When choosing a new backpack, it’s recommended you select ergonomically designed features that enhance safety and comfort. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that a child’s backpack weigh no more than 15-20 percent of their own body weight.

7 Tips on Choosing the Best Backpack for your Child:

Healthy vs Unhealthy Backpack Posture
  • A padded back will minimize direct pressure on the back.
  • Get wide padded shoulder straps that will not hinder circulation to the arms (that may cause numbness and tingling)
  • Waist and chest belts help transfer some weight from the back and shoulders to the trunk and pelvis.
  • Multiple compartments help to better distribute the weight in the backpack.
  • Reflective material enhances visibility in early mornings or at night.
  • Lightweight backpack
  • Correct Size: selection of the pack is important as packs come in different sizes for different aged children

Loading the Backpack: Follow these simple rules:

  • 15 Percent Maximum Weight: This means a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a loaded school backpack heavier than 15 pounds.
  • Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
  • Arrange books and materials securely.
  • Pack only necessary items that you will need for the school day.
  • If the backpack is too heavy, consider using a book bag on wheels.

Wearing the Backpack:

  • Wear both straps: By wearing two shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed, and a well-aligned symmetrical posture is promoted.
  • Tighten the straps: Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly to the child’s back while still allowing the pack to be put on and taken off easily. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles.
  • Put on and remove backpacks carefully. Keep the trunk of your body stable and avoid excessive twisting.
  • Wear the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles. Pay close attention to the way the backpack is positioned on the back. It should rest evenly in the middle of the back near the child’s center of gravity, and should not extend below the belt for than a couple of inches.
  • Lift properly using your legs and both hands applying one strap and then the other.

Encourage activity:

Children who are active tend to have better muscle flexibility and strength, which makes it easier to carry a backpack.
Once you have taken the proper steps in choosing, packing and wearing the backpack the ongoing assessment of your effort begins. It is extremely important to encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack. Don’t ignore any back pain. If necessary, talk to your child and teachers to ensure that what your child is hauling back and forth to school is truly what is necessary. It may also be necessary to explain to your child that the schedule usually allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day. Thus, giving them time to unload and reload the necessary books and supplies. If all else fails, one may always consider buying a second set of textbooks for your student to keep at home. Although this may seem unrealistic, it is a very simple solution for a child with significant pain.

Posture:

We know that posture is impacted by a combination of factors including good muscle control, strength and flexibility. So, involve your children whenever possible in activities that promote good posture. Get your child moving: swimming, dance, karate, gymnastics, skating, etc. Becoming involved with sports activities helps develop muscular skills as well as self-confidence which is often a strong influence in posture.

Seating:

Seating is often a significant factor leading to slouching. Make sure your child sits in an appropriately sized child-size chair, or a pneumatically adjustable chair. Remember the “Rule of 90s”: Ears directly over the tips of your shoulders, hips flexed to 90 degrees, knees bent to 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Be sure the computer screen is directly in front of your face. Also, try to maintain a slight arch in your back by rolling your hips slightly forward. Feel free to assist this by placing a towel roll in the arched area. You can also try having your child sit on a physioball when completing homework or working on the computer. The instability of the ball forces core stabilization and good postural maintenance.

Chiropractic Care:

Chiropractic Care can help prevent your child from suffering from an injury. Chiropractic Care will ensure that your child’s spinal column is growing in alignment and is in good health. If your child suffers from pain, schedule an appointment today, and we can get him/her on the path to wellness!

Stretching

Stretching may take a back seat to your exercise routine. You may think that stretching your hamstrings and calves is just something to be done if you have a few extra minutes before or after pounding out some miles on the treadmill. The main concern is exercising, not stretching, right?Not so fast. Although studies about the benefits of stretching are mixed, stretching may help you improve your joint range of motion, which in turn may help improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. Understand why stretching can help and how to stretch correctly.Stretching can help improve flexibility, and, consequently, range of motion in your joints. Better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion and enabling your muscles to work most effectively.

Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle. And you may come to enjoy the ritual of stretching before or after hitting the trail, ballet floor or soccer field.

Stretching essentials

Before you plunge into stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. While you can stretch anytime, anywhere — in your home, at work, in a hotel room or at the park — you want to be sure to use proper technique. Stretching incorrectly can actually do more harm than good.

Use these tips to keep stretching safe:

  • Don’t consider stretching a warm-up. You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. So before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for five to 10 minutes. Or better yet, stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up.Also, consider holding off on stretching before an intense activity, such as sprinting or track and field activities. Some research suggests that pre-event stretching before these types of events may actually decrease performance.Strive for symmetry. Everyone’s genetics for flexibility are a bit different, so rather than striving for that gymnast or ballet dancer degree of motion, focus on having equal flexibility side to side (especially if you have a history of a previous injury).
  • Focus on major muscle groups. When you’re stretching, focus on major muscle groups such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders.Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. Make sure that you stretch both sides. For instance, if you stretch your left hamstring, be sure to stretch your right hamstring, too.
  • Don’t bounce. Stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing. Bouncing as you stretch can cause injury to your muscle.
  • Hold your stretch. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds. Breathe normally as you stretch.
  • Don’t aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
  • Make stretches sport specific. Some evidence suggests that it’s helpful to do stretches tailored for your sport or activity. If you play soccer, for instance, you’re more vulnerable to hamstring strains. So opt for stretches that help your hamstrings.
  • Keep up with your stretching. Stretching can be time-consuming. But you can achieve the most benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week.If you don’t stretch regularly, you risk losing any benefits that stretching offered. For instance, if stretching helped you increase your range of motion, and you stop stretching, your range of motion may decrease again.
  • Bring movement into your stretching. Gentle movement can help you be more flexible in specific movements. The gentle movements of tai chi or yoga, for instance, may be a good way to stretch.And if you’re going to perform a specific activity, such as a kick in martial arts or kicking a soccer ball, do the move slowly and at low intensity at first to get your muscles used to it. Then speed up gradually as your muscles become accustomed to the motion.

“Do I have to stretch?” is a very common question, especially when discussing exercise. It’s a good idea, says the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM recommends stretching each of the major muscle groups at least two times a week for 60 seconds per stretch. Staying flexible as you age is a priority to help keep your mobility high as discussed in this weeks previous blogs.

If you have problems with posture or activities, make it a habit to stretch those muscles regularly. If you have back pain from sitting at a desk all day, stretches that reverse that posture can help.

Simple Back Stretchstretching2

Exercise physiologist Mike Bracko recommends doing the “Standing Cat-Camel” as a work-related back stretch. Here’s how:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent slightly
  • Lean forward, placing your hands just above your knees.
  • Round your back so that your chest is closed and your shoulders are curved forward.
  • Then arch your back so that your chest opens and your shoulders roll back.
  • Repeat several times.

If your job keeps you in the same position all day, Bracko suggests doing 2-minute stretch breaks to reverse that posture at least every hour.

Strength Training

Whatever your age, strength training is an activity that provides many health benefits for both men and women. Strength training can be done by people who are in good health, as well as by those who have health concerns — such as arthritis or chronic pain.

Combined with regular aerobic exercise, doing an activity like lifting weights two or more times a week can improve your mental, emotional and physical health.

Strength training is known to reduce the symptoms of several health problems and chronic diseases, such as:

  • Arthritis, including osteoarthritis
  • Back pain and other types of pain
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis

While some of the benefits of strength training are for older men and women, it is never too early to start. The major benefits of strength training include:

  • Increased muscle strength. Without use, our muscles waste away as we age. Regular strength training can keep your muscles strong well into the post-retirement years. This can have a profound impact on your ability to function in your daily life.
  • Improved balance and reduced falls. Simple strength and balance training can improve your balance. This can reduce the risk of falling, which is a common problem for older people. Bone fractures from falls can lead to permanent disability and may even lead to death.
  • Stronger bones. Lifting weights or doing other types of resistance exercises puts stress on the bones. In response, the bones grow stronger (denser). This reduces the risk of bone fractures. Post-menopausal women, in particular, can benefit, because they lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass each year.
  • Weight control. Building muscle also increases how many calories you burn, because muscle tissue is very active. For this reason, strength training can boost your metabolism, which can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Improved glucose control. Millions of Americans have type-2 diabetes, a condition that involves elevated levels of glucose in the blood. Left untreated, this condition can lead to heart or kidney problems, and even blindness. Strength training reduces the risk of these conditions by improving the glucose levels in the blood.
  • Better moods and sleep. Like aerobic exercise, strength training can improve your mood, self-confidence and self-esteem. In addition, regular exercise can help you sleep better. Together, these add up to a better overall quality of life.
  • Stronger heart muscle. The muscles of your arms and legs are not the only ones that benefit from strength training. Your heart will also grow stronger with exercise, which shows up as improved aerobic capacity. Even cardiac patients can benefit from doing this type of physical activity three times a week.

It is never too early or too late to start a strength training program. Adults should aim for doing this as least two days a week. The exercises should work all the major muscle groups of the body.

Strength training often involves lifting weights. But other types of resistance exercises also work well — such as using exercise bands or doing bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups or crunches.

If you are physically inactive, have an existing health condition or have concerns about your health, check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Movement & Exercise

Maintaining mobility is critical in order to live free from pain and disability. Maintaining good mobility is not difficult, but it does not happen on its own.

Imagine waking up one morning with a frozen shoulder where you couldn’t move your upper arm more than a few inches in any direction. How much would that impact your ability to do your job? How much would that affect your ability to drive your car or even to dress yourself? How much would that affect your ability to concentrate on anything other than your shoulder? Obviously, if your shoulder did not move correctly, it would have a dramatic impact on your life. Well, the same is true with movement in every part of your body. If things aren’t moving the way they are supposed to move, it will have a negative impact on your ability to function at work, take care of the demands of everyday life, and even your ability to concentrate.

Many patients with severe low back pain report that their pain came on suddenly when they did something as simple as bend down to pet their cat, put on their socks, or pick up the newspaper. Just about everyone would agree that a person’s body should be able to handle such simple movements. So what has happened?

In every one of these cases, the joints of the patient’s body were “all locked up” — they were barely moving at all. When the joints in one area of the body do not move the way they should, other areas of the body are forced to move more in order to compensate. This creates a significant stress on those areas that have to pick up the slack, and it soon leads to pain and inflammation. At the same time, the areas that don’t have normal movement will slowly worsen as the muscles continue to tighten, the joints stick together, and the ligaments and tendons shorten. This leaves the body in a very unstable condition; if left unchecked, this process will continue until the body can hardly move at all. That is how a person comes to suffer flare-ups of pain at the slightest provocation.

Most of us have seen people who have lost most of their normal mobility: they look like bodies have been starched stiff whenever they try to move around. This is especially prevalent among the elderly. Contrary to popular belief, however, this is not an inevitable effect of aging; rather it is the inevitable effect of not maintaining the body’s mobility through exercise, healthy alignment, and body mechanics. There are people in their 60s, 70s, or even older, who are stronger and more flexible than the average person in their 30s, simply because they keep themselves exercising.

Maintaining mobility is critical in order to live free from pain and disability. Maintaining good mobility is not difficult, but it does not happen on its own. Just as in developing a good posture, it is necessary that you perform specific exercises and stretches to keep your muscles, ligaments, and tendons flexible and healthy. In addition, it is necessary that all of the joints in your body are kept moving correctly as well. Although this can be achieved to a great degree through stretching, most people also find routine chiropractic adjustments to be very beneficial.

If you are dealing with long-term chronic pain, it is likely that the last thing you want to think about is exercising. However, staying physically active is important for your overall health and in preventing the onset of other conditions like heart disease and obesity.

An appropriate exercise program can also relieve symptoms associated with chronic pain by boosting your body’s pain-fighting chemicals. It may also reduce your risk of sustaining certain injuries and of developing chronic pain after an injury.

In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight and strengthening your muscles and heart, exercise provides other benefits for people with chronic pain, including:

  • Reduction in muscle spasms
  • Decrease in inflammation in the joints
  • Improved spinal alignment
  • Strengthened muscles around your joints
  • Prevention of atrophy of your muscles
  • Increased ability to carry out everyday activities
  • Boost in your mood
  • Improved quality of life

Exercise may help alleviate pain associated with many types of conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Certain back problems
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Certain neck problems
  • Osteoarthritis

To gain the benefits of exercise, you should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity. This includes walking, swimming, bicycling or water aerobics.

In addition to this aerobic exercise, you should do two or more days per week of muscle strengthening exercise. This should work all the major muscle groups of the body, including the arms, shoulders, abdomen, chest, hips and legs.

It is also beneficial to stay physically active throughout the day. This can be done by walking or biking to work, parking farther from the shopping center entrance, taking periodic walks, gardening or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

If you have had a recent injury or suffer from chronic pain, the first step is to visit your primary care doctor for an exam. He or she can suggest an appropriate medical plan to treat your injury or alleviate your chronic pain. Your treatment plan might include visiting your chiropractor and starting an exercise program to help relieve your symptoms. Your chiropractor and primary care physician can work together to develop an exercise program that is suitable for your individual needs.

Stabilization

Throughout the past few weeks, we have been discussing treatments that Minnesota Chiropractic and Rehabilitation offers for our patients. This week, we would like to discuss rehabilitation care and how we can help you get on your feet faster after an accident, or for overall rehabilitation for what you have been experiencing. Rehabilitation care is incorporated after your pain is gone, and you have reached the stabilization stage of care. In this stage, you may feel much better, but you still want to receive chiropractic care.

You may be wondering “Why would I keep going back if my pain is gone?!” Your spine has actually been misaligned for a long time and your body has now accepted that misalignment as being correct – the body, muscles and spine must be retrained! This takes time! Unless the spine and joints are retrained with adjustments and kept in the proper position for a longer period of time – your body will naturally go right back into the misaligned condition. Along with chiropractic care, the stabilization stage also includes rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation includes stretching and strengthening exercises taught by our doctor to further improve your condition and help your muscles and other tissues heal more completely. Dr. Boroditsky will teach you a variety of strengthening and stretching exercises to do at home to improve your condition. He may also suggest different exercises such as walking, swimming or biking. Dr. Boroditsky teaches each patient a rehabilitation program that is unique to them, to further help them as much as possible.

When you take the time do these exercises and stretches at home, you will notice yourself not only getting stronger, but your adjustments holding longer and more stabilization throughout your body. In the long run, this will help to prevent further injury or re-injury.

During the correction / restorative phase of your care, you will not have to receive treatment as often as you did during the first phase of care, depending on your particular circumstances.

Do not be discouraged if you have mild flare-ups in your symptoms on occasion. This is normal. Fare-ups are bound to occur during this phase because your body has not fully healed. Depending on the severity of your injury or condition and how long you have been suffering from it will determine how long this phase of care lasts.