As parents, we are focused on providing the very best for our children. As we send them off to school, our intention is no different.
We are often told that carrying a bag of books on one shoulder is bad for posture. So, we confidently turn to the 2-strap backpack thinking we are taking stress off the little ones’ backs.
However, contrary to popular belief, these backpacks can be just as bad for the health of your children’s spines. When worn improperly or packed too heavily, even the 2-strap backpack can negatively affect the neck, shoulders, upper back, and lower back.
In a 2003 article published in Spine Journal, researchers revealed that out of 1122 backpack users, 74.4% suffered back pain. When compared with adolescents who had no back pain, adolescents with back pain carried significantly heavier backpacks compared to their body weights.
These facts led the researchers to conclude “the use of backpacks, and especially the backpacks carrying heavier loads was independently related to the incidence of back pain in adolescent students.”
In another study, researchers found backpack weight was effective in predicting back pain in a sample of 3,498 students in California. They also found that girls and students who walk to and from school were more likely to report back pain.
When the severity of pain was taken into account, older age, walking to and from school, and method of wear were all statistically significant.
According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), the idea is to “Pack it Light, and Wear it Right.”
An important factor is the size of the backpack relative to the size of the child. The top of the backpack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder, and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone.
The backpack ought to be as light as possible – made from materials such as nylon or vinyl instead of leather.
The shoulder straps should be at least two inches wide, adjustable and padded. The straps themselves must leave ample room for movement of the arms. The back portion of the backpack should also be padded for protection and comfort.
Backpacks should always include a hip strap or waist belt. This redistributes as much as 50 to 70 percent of the backpack weight to the pelvis, which decreases the load on the upper back, neck, and shoulders.
Choosing a backpack with several individual pockets instead of one large compartment makes it easier to properly distribute the weight. Another option is to use a backpack-style carrier with wheels and a pull handle for easy rolling.
The total weight of the backpack plus its contents should never exceed 15 % of a person’s body weight (e.g., a 90-pound child should not carry more than 14 pounds in a backpack). For elementary-aged children, reduce this number to below 10 percent of their body weight.
Pack contents so the weight is evenly distributed in the backpack. Place heavier items closer to the body. This reduces the pulling effect on the shoulder straps. It also makes it easier for the child to maintain balance without leaning forward.
To help stay under the recommended load, only pack items needed for that day. Load odd-shaped items on the outside to prevent them from digging into your child’s back.
Both shoulder straps should be adjusted so the pack fits snugly to the body but not too tight. A parent’s hand should be able to slide between the backpack and the child’s back. Always fasten hip straps.
If you’re still not sure what to do, ask Dr. Lowery for advice.
In addition to helping fix spinal misalignments caused by an improperly fitting backpack, Dr. Lowery can help prevent these problems from happening in the first place.
Yours In Health-
Dr. Christopher Lowery
Can Chiropractors Help Children with Infantile Colic?
Your chiropractor understands that when a child is inconsolable, it’s not only the child-who suffers. A colicky infant can easily affect the psychological, emotional and physical health of the entire family. This is why chiropractors urge parents to seek immediate care if the infant is exhibiting signs of colic.
According to medical literature, infantile colic is diagnosed byt he rule of three: crying for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, and for longer than three weeks in a month for an infant who is well-fed and healthy.’ Medical experts have yet to come to a consensus regarding the cause. One of the most common theories is that the infant is having digestive difficulties, including excessive gas or reflux. Mothers who breastfeed are recommended to avoid dairy products for a week to see if it helps reduce the symptoms of colic.’
Chiropractors on the other hand suggest that we look to the spine. Natural childbirth can be traumatic for the immature human spine, with the neck and head experiencing a great degree of compression, rotation, extension and traction.
When treating an infant, your chiropractor examines the child’s spine, locates areas that do not appear to be aligned and/or moving properly, and then applies gentle pressure to reestablish proper mechanics for the involved vertebrae. The result: happier babies, and happier parents!
Research supports the use of chiropractic care for babies who are experiencing the symptoms of infantile colic. Often, only a few adjustments are needed to produce dramatic results. 3-6
In one such case, a 7-week old infant presented with medically diagnosed colic that was persistent since birth. Symptoms included reflux and disturbed sleep. Vertebral subluxation complex patterns were noted in the spine of the baby. In less than three weeks of treatments, this infant achieved complete resolution with chiropractic adjustments to the spine.’
In yet another study, 316 infants with moderate to severe colic (average 5.2 hours of crying per day) were treated, and their responses to care were reported by their mothers in a prospective survey. Ninety-four percent of the children showed a satisfactory response with an average of only three treatments within two weeks. One-fourth of these infants showed great improvement after the first chiropractic adjustment!’
In 1999, one of the most compelling studies was undertaken to investigate the effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of infantile colic versus medication. Fifty infants were recruited and randomly assigned to two groups: dimethicone medication daily for two weeks or spinal manipulation for two weeks by a local chiropractor. The infants in the chiropractic group received an average of 3.8 adjustments. During the two-week treatment period, the parents kept a colic diary and nurses visited the families to administer a weekly infantile colic behavior profile. Although all of the chiropractic patients completed the entire course of treatments, 9 out of 25 subjects dropped out from the medication side. When parents were asked why they left the study, two described their child’s condition as “worsened” and two others described it as “much worsened.” Had these four infants completed the study, they would have significantly lowered the apparent positive effects of dimethicone. This study strongly suggests that chiropractic treatments are a valid treatment option for children with infantile colic.’
It’s important to note here that none of the chiropractors delivering the care in these studies were claiming to beng colic. They were adjusting the infants who were exhibiting colicky symptoms. Next time you hear someone complaining about their baby’s incessant crying, mention to them that chiropractic3-4 care may be able to help.
Most of us experience the occasional headache. Whether it’s throbbing, aching, pounding or stabbing, a headache can make our lives miserable. It also affects our ability to focus and may increase our sensitivity to external stimuli.
There are several types of headaches, and each one has a different cause. The most common headaches are tension, migraine, cervicogenic and cluster. Migraines are often considered to exist in a category of their own. (We’ll discuss migraines in the next issue of Topic of the Week.)
The tension headache is the most frequent type of headache in the general population) It usually occurs most frequently in people susceptible to the effects of stress. This headache usually starts with tightness in the neck and shoulders, then progresses to pain at the base of the skull. The forehead and temples may also ache.
A cervicogenic headache originates from disorders of the neck. This type of headache is often preceded by awkward neck movement or positioning (such as painting a ceiling, or washing a floor). It’s usually accompanied by restricted range of motion in the neck and pain in the shoulder, neck or arm.
A frequent cause of both tension and cervicogenic headaches is irritation of the nerves leading to the scalp. These nerves exit the spine close to the base of the skull and pass around or directly through several layers of muscle tissue. If this area of the spine is restricted or the muscles in this location are extra tight, the nerves in the scalp can get irritated. When related with neck pain and stiffness, these headaches can generally be effectively treated with chiropractic. 2-5 Sometimes the relief from chronic headaches can be immediate and dramatic. Massage and trigger point therapy applied to the tight muscles may also reduce the symptoms associated with this type of headache.
Cluster headaches are relatively rare – affecting only 0.1% of the population. About 85% of cluster headache sufferers are male.’ This headache is distinct from migraine and tension headaches. It typically features intense bouts of stabbing pain felt in very specific focal areas of the skull. The pain usually occurs in clusters, and it can last from minutes to hours. The discomfort typically centers around one eye, and this eye may be inflamed and watery. Nasal congestion sometimes occurs on the affected side of the face. It’s suspected that cluster headaches are related to the sinuses.
This type of headache is not usually as responsive to chiropractic treatments as other headaches. But it’s a good idea to have your chiropractor check your neck to rule out any involvement of this area.
Follow these simple tips:
Chiropractic Can Lend a Hand for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Your chiropractor is skilled at treating carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) – a painful condition involving the hand and wrist. Symptoms often include numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle-wasting in the thumb and index finger. The fingers may also have a tendency to feel swollen, although no swelling is present. All of these symptoms are attributed to an irritation of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel.
Since the carpal tunnel is a physically limited space, any swelling or inflammation within this space will also cause compression of the median nerve. One of the most common causes of this compression is the inflammation of the tendons passing through the carpal tunnel. This irritation is usually associated with repetitive activities involving the small muscles of the hand, such as typing, knitting or sewing.
Although a person working at a computer station is thought to be the most prone to CTS, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimates that assembly-line workers are three times more likely to suffer from CTS than data-entry personnel. Women are also more likely to be treated for CTS, and NINDS suggests that this may be due to the fact they have smaller carpal tunnels than men.
Although a true case of CTS is attributed to the compression of the median nerve at the writ, irritation anywhere along the length of this nerve can lead to symptoms that mimic this syndrome.
The median nerve leaves the spinal cord at the lower part of the neck, where it starts out as a series of nerve roots. These roots then unite to form part of the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus then divides into several more specific nerves, at which point the median nerve becomes distinct.
Vertebral subluxations can cause irritation and/or inflammation of the nerve roots, as they pass very close to the joints and discs of the neck.
The median nerve must also travel through or around several muscles on its way to the arm and hand. Specific muscles that can be involved include the scalene muscles of the neck, the pectoral muscles of the chest, and the flexor muscles of the forearm. Tightness or inflammation of any of these muscles may serve as a source of irritation to the nerve. If positions that stretch or tighten these muscles reproduce symptoms, it’s likely that this could be contributing to CTS.
Chiropractors are specifically trained in the art of locating and correcting sources of nerve interference caused by irritation and joint restriction. Orthopedic and neurological tests are used to determine the source of irritation.
And chiropractic adjustments are used to restore proper mechanical function of the involved joints – including the wrist, elbow or cervical spine. When it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome, prevention of the problem is always recommended. You should…
Other factors shown to contribute to CTS include tobacco, caffeine and alcohol consumption.’ Diabetics may also be more susceptible to experiencing CTS.
If you start to feel the symptoms of CTS, ice the wrist several times a day to decrease inflammation in the area. Consult with your chiropractor to ensure that you have proper positioning and movements of the joints and to test whether there are other contributing factors besides the carpal tunnel. To stop the problem worsening, you may require splints or braces. Studies have shown chiropractic care to be an effective tool to reduce the symptoms of CTS.
The Deceiving Nature of Whiplash
The traffic light ahead turns red. You bring your vehicle to a stop. Then BANG! Your head snaps forward then backward. Your car is hurtled a foot into the intersection. You realize almost immediately what just happened. Your vehicle was rear ended. Other than being startled by the event, you’re okay… or are you?Despite feeling fine, you may have just received a common and sometimes serious injury: whiplash. Your chiropractor can tell you that it’s often a deceiving injury.
When your vehicle is rear ended, your neck can get stretched beyond its natural range of motion. Whiplash can occur at speeds as low as 5 mph. You may feel pain quickly or you may not develop symptoms for several hours, weeks, or months. Your neck (cervical spine) contains muscles, ligaments, tendons, discs, joints and nerves confined to a relatively small area. And whiplash can injure all these body components.
Although it happens most frequently in rear-end vehicle collisions, whiplash can occur in other situations – especially in the sports of football, gymnastics, boxing and contact martial arts.
Besides the neck and upper back, pain from a whiplash may extend into other areas of the body, such as the arms and shoulders. You may also suffer muscle stiffness, burning or tingling sensations as well as headaches and numbness. Even if you don’t have any immediate whiplash symptoms, you should visit your chiropractor as soon as possible.
Shooting Back Pains?
Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction is typically a very painful condition involving the joints that connect your spine to your pelvis. The sacroiliac joints are formed by the sacrum, a bone at the bottom of the spine, and the large iliac bones, located on the left and right of the pelvis. Because of their anatomical position, SI joints can sometimes be considered part of your lower back or your pelvis. These joints support the upper body when sitting or standing.
If you have SI joint dysfunction, you may feel pain in various parts of your lower body, including the spine, buttocks, hips, groin and legs.
Many patients presenting with SI joint pain tend to think they either have sciatica or “tail-bone” pain. Although it can resemble other conditions, SI joint dysfunction is a distinct condition of its own. Your chiropractor needs to use keen diagnostic skills to diagnose the SI joints as the source of your pain.
What Causes SI Joint Dysfunction?
SI joint dysfunction is often caused by a fall or injury, but it can also appear without a clear cause. Postural changes due to increased abdominal size can irritate these joints, as can muscle imbalances in the legs, lower back or hips. Sporting activities that require frequent use of these joints, such as golfing and cycling, may result in SI joint dysfunction.’
This joint problem often affects pregnant women. Hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy can cause ligaments to relax. When this happens, the SI joints have a more extended range of motion. This broader flexibility can lead to abnormal wear and stress on these joints.
Fortunately, chiropractic can help in this situation. A study revealed “91% of women with sacroiliac/pelvic subluxations and lower back pain reported relief of pain with chiropractic adjustments.”
The Chiropractic Approach to a Baffling Condition
How does your chiropractor determine if you suffer from sacroiliac joint dysfunction?
Providing a detailed health history is helpful. Many times, a correct diagnosis can be drawn from the history alone. A physical examination will often be conducted to thoroughly exhaust all the various causes of the pain. Your chiropractor may ask detailed questions about the pain and direct you to point to the painful areas.
If your pain can be reproduced by special tests that challenge the integrity of the SI joints, you’ll find that this increases your odds of having a dysfunction of these joints. Applying direct pressure to the SI joints is one of the techniques used by chiropractors to resolve the problem.
The goal is to normalize both the movement and position of this area. You may be required to complete stretching and strengthening exercises for your lower back and pelvic areas to correct posture problems and gait patterns that may contribute to the inflammation of these joints. If instability of the SI joints is thought to be the cause of the pain, your chiropractor may recommend that you wear a special belt around your waist to stabilize the joints.
Can You Stop SI Problems Before They Happen?
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said the wise Ben Franklin. Your chiropractor suggests a couple of simple ways to minimize your chances of developing this painful problem.
Keep your body in good physical condition. This helps prevent many problems related to joints, muscles and bones. The second piece of advice is to shed excess pounds. Too much body weight places pressure on the joints and increases the possibility of damage.
By getting chiropractic adjustments and following your chiropractor’s advice, you boost your chances of living a life virtually free of muscle and joint pain.