Back to School - Backpack Safety for your Children

Originally written and posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

 The Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors has long been a huge proponent of backpack safety for children.  

That’s why, as the pencils are sharpened, the smell of fresh Velcro litters the air, and your kids come to the realization their summer is coming to an end, we like to highlight the importance of protecting childrens' bodies when it comes to what is considered an essential back-to-school purchase. 

According to a study by the University of California, 61 per cent of school children analyzed had backpacks exceeding 10 per cent of their body weight. Those carrying the heaviest backpacks had a 50 per cent higher risk of back pain. This goes along with the fact that over 50 per cent of Canadian youth will suffer at least one back pain episode during their school years.

Choosing the right backpack, ensuring your child packs it light, and wears it the correct way, can go a long way in preventing them pain, both now and down the road.

Choosing the right backpack

Upon entering the store, your child may flock to the [insert popular kids movie of the summer here] themed backpacks, but it’s important to help them pick their backpack based on substance, not style.

When looking for a back pack you should look for the following things:

  • Choose a bag made of lightweight material, such as vinyl or canvas.
  • Pick a bag that has two wide, adjustable and padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, a padded back and plenty of pockets.
  • Ensure the bag is proportionate to body size and no larger than needed. The top of the pack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder, and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone.
  • Explore other options like bags with wheels and a pull handle for easy rolling.

Packing it with the right weight

The type of backpack your kids are using is key, but the weight your kids are putting in them is of equal importance.

The total weight of the pack should not exceed 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer’s body weight. A typical 10-year-old boy’s weight in Canada is estimated at around 50 lbs. A child this size should only be carrying around 7.5 lbs. maximum.

Also keep in mind that the weight should be distributed within the pack evenly. It’s a good idea to pack the heaviest items close to the body as this reduces the strain because the weight is closer to the body’s own centre of gravity.

Wearing it correctly

It’s important to teach your child the proper way wear their backpack as well. Slinging the backpack over one shoulder can cause stress on the joints and muscles in the mid and lower back. Both shoulder straps should always be used and adjusted so the pack fits snugly against the body. You should be able to slide a hand between the backpack and the wearer’s back.

If you’ve bought a bag with a waist strap, ensure that they do it up as it reduces the strain on the back and transfers some of the load to the hips.

To ensure your child’s back is healthy and strong, consult your chiropractor. They can teach you and your child how to pack, lift and carry a backpack properly to prevent injury.

Sitting Properly: Decrease Pain and Improve Productivity

Originally written and posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

 Research has shown, sitting at work accounts for one-third to one-half of sitting time. Sitting at your desk, in meetings and in your car to and from work, are common for most people. You’re most likely sitting while reading this blog.

Sitting for prolonged periods can cause back, neck and shoulder pain.

Most think you’re more likely to injure yourself during activities like golfing or gardening, but sitting for extended periods of time while at work can produce chronic pain and can limit range of motion for many people. There are ways however, to ensure your office job doesn’t mean more pain than productivity.

Move Around

It may seem simplistic, but even getting up and stretching every hour or so can go a long way in preventing pain. Sitting in the exact same position for long periods of time can cause muscles to stiffen and can slow circulation.

A great device created with the intention to keep your blood circulating is a very simple desktop unit that allows you to raise your working surface with just two levers. The entire unit is on hydraulics, making it effortless to go from sitting to standing.

Posture

While it’s important to ensure you get up and move around, it’s equally important to ensure you have the correct posture while you’re sitting. Here are some tips to ensure your sitting posture is correct:

  • Always try to sit upright, with your shoulders down and back all the way to the back of the seat. The back of your pelvis should be butted against the back of the chair for support.
  • Keep your body weight distributed to both of your feet evenly. Try not to cross your legs as that rotates the pelvis backwards on the side that you are crossing over.
  • Try using a lumbar support, which is essentially a cushion for your lower back that rests on the back of your chair. A lumbar support can go a long way in preventing pain.

Your Chair

Your chair can be a big factor in whether or not you experience pain. If your chair height isn’t correct, you’ll have to extend your forearms downwards or upwards to type. This can cause pain to either shoot up to your shoulder blades or sit in your wrists.

Also, you should always try to have your chair under your desk as far as you can, this helps to prevent slouching forwards putting strain on your lower back. 

How Chiropractic Can Help

A chiropractor is trained to help you understand how you can prevent and alleviate pain with prolonged sitting.

Chiropractors are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the musculoskeletal system (the body’s bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, joints and connective tissue). Your chiropractor will first assess your current condition or the source of your problem and then develop a treatment plan for you to help ease your pain.

Posture Perfect

As a Chiropractor, I talk about posture a lot. It is sort of expected, which is evident when people stand taller when we are introduced. The topic of posture used to be dry and boring to me, but the more I learn, the more I see how much it is a window to our overall health and can affect how we experience the world.

There really are two forms of posture: conscious and reflexive. Conscious posture is that which we correct when we adjust our seat to sit up straight, or draw our chin back when we see how far our head is reaching forward. The majority of postural control however is in response to reflexes in our body to prevent us from falling forward. In other words, it starts with our spinal alignment. Our spine is designed to support the weight of the body via curvatures and proper "stacking" of vertebrae. Any shifts in our body, from moving our arms, to tilting our head, must be countered with muscle contractions and compensation to allow us to remain upright. Imagine the compensation that occurs in response to chronic postures, such as sitting and working at a computer for 8 hours a day (insert forward head carriage and rounded shoulders). I could go into much further detail, but long story short, posture is important and the more we compromise it throughout our day, the more we must do to correct it. 

So why does this even matter? Aside from altered motion (which leads to degenerative change over time), a poor posture consumes a lot more energy (fatigue), reduces lung capacity (reduced oxygen intake = fatigue and brain fog), contributes to muscle imbalance (weak muscles opposing tight muscles = aches, prone to injury), and on an unexpected note, can alter people's perception of you, and your perception of the world. 

The last point may seem a little out-there, but walk with me through this. When you encounter someone, their stature sends immediate clues as to their confidence, mood, etc. In fact, a TED talk* explored this topic form both directions. The fact that one's confidence/ mood can affect posture is not a new idea, but researchers wanted to explore if posture could actually change one's level of confidence. You can probably imagine what they discovered. It was found that a 2-min power pose could increase a person's level of confidence in a situation they previously felt apprehensive about. Watch the video in the link below...its fascinating. 

Long story short, your posture may be one of the biggest clues to your overall health, and if properly maintained can be a catalyst to living a more full and healthy life. Pay attention to the people around you, what their posture is reflecting, or more importantly, have someone properly assess YOUR posture, and take proctive steps to optimize your health!

*Click here for Body Language Ted Talk