Going Back to School Doesn’t Have To Be Painful

Going Back to School Doesn’t Have To Be Painful

backpack girl 426x640While your kids may have started to drag their feet, the end of summer is bound to put more spring back in your step. In the not too far future, care-free days will be traded for books and homework as the younger generations head back to school or university. Unfortunately, chances are high of him or her encountering chronic back pain, strains and more serious spinal conditions – and not always for the reasons you may think.

One of the largest (and maybe most obvious) factors contributing to early and pre adult back and neck pain is heavy, incorrectly packed and oversized backpacks.

Studies show that kids aged 12 and older have an increased risk of back problems compared to those below that threshold, and nearly a third of all teenagers will suffer from recurring back pain at some point1. The prevalence of nonspecific back pain increases dramatically during adolescence from less than 10% in pre-teen years up to 50% in 15-16 year olds. There is widespread concern that heavy backpacks carried by adolescents contribute to the development of back pain2.

While backpacks (for any age) should weigh about 10% of your body weight, nearly 80% of youths are still carrying bags weighing nearly double that (17-19% of body weight). In fact, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that more than 8,300 kids 5-18 years old were treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices for injuries related to backpacks in 20145.

To put things in a larger perspective, more than 79 million students across the US carry heavy loads causing lower back and neck pain that often last into adulthood. Out of those, 90% have bad posture when carrying bags and 75% don’t utilize the bags ergonomic features.

When we consider the implication of backpacks on the health and future health of young spines, we must also factor in the significant contribution that sitting at desks and over electronic or mobile devices are responsible for.

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The average child spends 15,000 hours sitting on chairs during their school life and in the slowed-down life of a kid, one in which math class feels like it outlast all seven seasons of Game of Thrones, that’s a really, really long time.

The standard school chair slopes backwards by about five degrees, leading to hunching, slumping or poor posture and increased risk of back pain that can also carry into adulthood3.

The Biomechanics and Functional Morphology Laboratory, at the University of Lisbon, carried out a cross-sectional study to examine the effect of a mismatch between schoolSchool chairs 009 furniture dimensions, the weight of their school bags and the student’s anthropometric characteristics.

They found that almost two thirds of the students studied suffered from back pain and that large differences between desk height and elbow height was associated with a greater likelihood of adolescents having this problem. Girls were slightly more likely to suffer from the desk height discrepancy than males.

While improving the ergonomics of the classroom is a step in the right direction to alleviating poor posture and back pain, if you think ousting the backpack or heavy books all together and opting for more light weight, streamlined laptops and tablets is the answer, think again.Smartphones Laptops

On any given day, teens across the US spend about 9 hours using media for their entertainment. This number doesn’t include time spent using media at school or for their homework4. Putting those nine hours into context means that teens are spending more time hunched over electronic devices than they do sleeping or spending time with parents or teachers.

Common Sense Media identified tweens, 8-12 year olds, to spend about four and a half hours consuming media on screens – this includes laptops, smartphones and tablets – while teens average about six and a half hours. This basically boils down to mobile devices accounting for 41% and 46% of all screen time respectively4. That’s A LOT of hunching, bending and looking down.

teens and phones

So why should parents get all bent out of shape over this? The use of these devices influences our posture and body mechanics in unhealthy ways that contribute to neck, upper back, shoulder and arm pain. Mobile or portable gaming device usage can double or triple the weight of your kids’ head and strain their neck. Typically, an adult human head weighs about 10-12 lbs. As the head tilts or angles forward, the cervical spine’s (neck) muscles, tendons and ligaments support the head during movement and when static. Even the neck’s intervertebral discs are involved and help absorb and distribute the forces exerted on the neck6.

An article published in Surgical Technology International reported that even a slight increase of 15 degrees to your head can equate to nearly tripling the weight of your head.

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At 30 degrees forward, the strain on the neck equals a 40 lb. head while a 45 degree forward angle equals about 49 lbs of strain. Now consider the fact that the average youth is holding their head in one of these forward positions for 9 hours out of every day! Add to that the fact that we round our shoulders as we tilt our heads and you have a recipe for inevitably poor posture. All this excess strain also creates extra wear and tear on the structures of the neck, upper spine and back and contributes to or leads to spinal degeneration that may require surgery or cause chronic back problems6.

Better Back Safety

There are a number of ways you can help to ensure less strain on backs and neck caused from backpacks and the use of electronic and mobile devices. We’ve listed just a few below. However, if you or your child are already experiencing any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, poor posture or over use of electronic devices, call your chiropractor today.

Chiropractors are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. Doctors of chiropractic can also prescribe exercises designed to develop and strengthen muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.

Better Back Safety Checklist:

  • Properly fit and buy the right backpack for your kids
  • Don’t overload backpacks – ensure kids aren’t carrying more than 10% of their bodyweight. Use lockers and take only what you need to/from school
  • Don’t forget posture
  • Don’t stress! – when kids feel stressed or overwhelmed they tend to tense up, adding to the hours hunching over a desk to contribute further strain on our necks, backs and shoulders. Encourage positive ways of dealing with stress through regular exercise.
  • Buy comfortable, properly fitting shoes – not flip flops or flats
  • Ergonomics!Ergonomics!Ergonomics! – Don’t forget to always wear BOTH straps, choose backpacks with wide padded straps and don’t let the backpack hang lower than4 inches below the waist.

References:

1http://www.thespinehealthinstitute.com/news-room/health-blog/back-to-school-without-the-back-pain-tips-for-protecting-students%E2%80%99-spine

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12942009

3https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2015/apr/19/children-bad-backs-uncomfortable-school-chairs-campaign#img-1

http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/03/health/teens-tweens-media-screen-use-report/index.html

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-lowdown-on-backpack-safety-300122740.html

https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/ergonomics/your-cell-phone-killing-your-back

   

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Chiropractic Adjustments Can Ease Your Aching Back

A new analysis finds that the hands-on technique works as well as pain drugs and is safer, too.

Spinal Manipulation Can Ease Your Aching Back

by Teresa Carr

Published: http://www.consumerreports.org/back-pain/spinal-manipulation-can-ease-your-aching-back/
Spinal Manipulation Can Ease Your Aching Back
Posted on April 11, 2017 by Teresa Carr

When you wrench your back, your first impulse may be to rummage through the medicine cabinet for an over-the-counter pain drug or even ask your doctor to prescribe a strong opioid painkiller such as Percocet or Vicodin.

But an analysis published April 11 in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that spinal manipulation can ease your backache and get you moving again without the risk of medication side effects.

A new Consumer Reports survey of more than 3,500 back-pain sufferers reached similar conclusions: Nearly 90 percent of people who tried spinal manipulation found it helpful.

Spinal manipulation involves a healthcare provider applying controlled forces to the spine to improve alignment and allow the muscles and joints to move more easily. While it’s usually done by a chiropractor, some doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) and physical therapists also use the technique.

For the JAMA analysis, researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs and elsewhere combined results from 26 studies involving more than 3,000 patients with low-back pain lasting six weeks or less. Patients treated with spinal manipulation were able to move through daily activities with less pain than people who didn’t get the therapy.

On average, people treated with spinal manipulation said that their pain improved about 10 points on a 100-point scale.

“The beneficial effects on pain and function are real, but modest—like most other therapies for short-term low-back pain,” says Paul G. Shekelle, M.D., chief of general internal medicine at the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare system, and an author of the JAMA study.

 

The Strength of a Nondrug Approach

Recent guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommend trying spinal manipulation or other nondrug measures such as acupuncture and massage before turning to OTC pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and generic) or naproxen (Aleve and generic). They also strongly discourage the use of prescription opioid painkillers because of the risk of addiction and overdose.

“The real strength of spinal manipulation is that it is equally effective to other forms of commonly used treatments, and it’s safer,” says Paul Dougherty, D.C., chief of chiropractic care at the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Canandaigua, N.Y., and a co-author of the JAMA review.

None of the studies included in the JAMA analysis reported that spinal manipulation had serious adverse effects. Minor side effects included headaches, soreness, and muscle stiffness, but those were generally short-lived.

“It’s common for people having spinal manipulation for low-back pain to have some soreness, similar to what you might have after a session of exercise,” Dougherty says.

Pain medications, on the other hand, carry more serious risks. Opioids commonly cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation, and make you feel drowsy and “fuzzy-headed.” And a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that taking an opioid painkiller for more than a few days sharply increases the risk of getting hooked on the drug.

OTC anti-inflammatory drugs are safer than opioids for most people but—especially when taken long term—they can cause serious harm, including kidney problems, bleeding in the stomach or elsewhere in the digestive tract, and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Have you tried spinal manipulation for low-back pain?

Tell us about it in the comments below.

Part of an Overall Strategy

If you’re interested in spinal manipulation, check with your health insurance company for a list of licensed chiropractors and doctors of osteopathic medicine in your area, and ask your primary care physician for a referral.

Our survey found that health insurance provided better coverage for chiropractic care than other forms of nondrug therapies, such as acupuncture and massage. Still, more than one in four respondents said they paid for the entire cost of treatment out of pocket.

At your first visit, a provider should get your medical history and do a thorough exam, says William J. Lauretti, D.C., an associate professor of chiropractic clinical sciences at the New York Chiropractic College and a spokesman for the American Chiropractic Association. He or she should ask about “red flag” symptoms, including loss of bowel or bladder control or weakness and loss of feeling in the legs. They can indicate a serious health problem and require a referral to an orthopedist or other specialist.

Spinal manipulation is safe for most other patients, but tell your provider if you have osteoporosis (brittle bones), because he or she will adjust techniques to use less force.

People with routine back pain can expect treatment to take two to three visits weekly for about three weeks. “You should notice improvement after the first couple of visits,” Lauretti says. “If there’s no change after six treatments, then it’s time to reassess the diagnosis and think about a different treatment approach.”

You should expect some homework, too. “At the first visit, we’ll show you a stretch or two you can do at home, and little by little we’ll add to that to get you doing exercises to strengthen your back,” Lauretti says. “Spinal manipulation is just one part of an overall treatment strategy to get you actively engaged in taking care of yourself to get past this episode and prevent future recurrences.”

People who have persistent or recurring pain may require more visits. But Lauretti advises avoiding signing long-term contracts. “After every few visits, the doctor should assess your progress and remaining symptoms and decide whether it’s appropriate to reduce the frequency of visits, refer you to another professional, or discharge you from care,” he says.

Editor’s Note: This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multistate settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).

 

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