Its time for your kids to go back to school and that means two things! Lots of sitting and carrying a school bag.
We will start with the sitting first. As 've talked about in my Top 10 Tips on Back Pain, it is important be sitting in the correct posture to minimise the strain on your back. With kids this is the same; their hips/thighs should be higher than their knees when sitting.
This maintains the curve (lordosis) in the lumbar spine (A), keeps the lungs from becoming compressed (B), allows the abdomen to be unrestricted (C) and keeps the body moving well (D)
When in the classroom, the teacher may not be directly in front of them when sitting. By twisting their neck or back to look at the teacher, your kids are putting large stresses through their spine and discs. The best way to target this is to tell your kids to move their buttocks on the chair to always follow the teacher and then to face back to their desks when writing/reading again.
As always, you should take a break every 30 minutes when sitting. This may be tricky to do in the classroom, where lessons may reach an hour duration. The best tip for this is to "do something different" whilst sitting to keep the muscles in the buttocks and lower back alert and supporting the spine. A good idea is to shift the weight from side to side a couple of times or clench buttocks for 10 seconds. This one being a little bit more discreet!
Now onto the biggest strain that your kids will endure throughout the day.....carrying a large weight on their back! Have a look at the following diagrams - they show the stresses on the spine from incorrectly carrying a backpack.
The areas of strain on the neck, shoulder, midback, lower back and hips over time will lead to pain and damage to these areas. You can imagine the amount of force on one side of the body with this posture. It is much safer to carry the back pack on both shoulders to spread the weight between sides of your body.
A study by Auburn University researchers (Anniston, Alabama, Pascoe, et al) stated the most common symptom reported from back-pack use is “rucksack palsy.” This is caused by pressure on the nerves of the shoulder causing numbness pins & needles in the hands, muscle weakness, and in extreme cases, nerve damage (Journal Ergonomics, vol. 40, #6, 1997).
Even wearing a rucksack on both shoulders can have its downsides. It is recommended that children carry no more than 15% of their body weight in their rucksak. Studies have shown that over 50% of children carry more than this.
I remember being at school and carrying exceptionally heavy rucksacks with all my textbooks fo the day in it. I dread to think how much it actually weighed! My tip is to keep the books that you dont need for your lessons in your locker and swap the books when you can get to your locker at break/lunchtime.
So far, we've talked about the weight of the back pack and to use both shoulders. But it is equally important to talk about how long the staps should be, i.e where the back pack should sit against the back. The back pack should fit against the middle of the back.
Too low, and the weight of the back pack will drag downwards against your child's mid back and strain the shoulder muscles. So, adjust the straps accordingly. It should fit snug into the curve of the lower back. Never below
One last thing, just so its comfortable for your kids to carry the back pack - try and find one with padded straps.
My top 5 tips for choosing a ruck sack are:
Choose a back pack size thats appropriate for your childs size
Never allow your child to carry more than 15% of their body weight. **weigh their bag filled on you home scales, you'll be suprised at how heavy it may be**
Always use the back pack with both straps. Carrying it over one shoulder can can a curvature to the spine.
Adjust the straps so the back pack fits into the curve of your child's lower back
Take regular trips to your locker to offload books that you no longer need for that day
Want more information. Call the Adam Kay Chiropractor on 07415 639046 or visit www.adamkaychiropractor.co.uk to find out more about how we can improve your health, naturally!