It’s that time of year! Whether you are preparing a child for the upcoming school year or yourself, sitting at a desk all day, being hunched over a computer, or craning your neck while doing homework–school can put a strain on your body. Here are some chiropractic tips to help make this back-to-school season a happy and healthy one.
OUCH! BACK-TO-SCHOOL PAIN
Back pain is a common complaint in our office from adults, but in recent years it has also become a common concern for many children and teenagers. The influx in cases has recently been connected to the use of heavily packed backpacks and spending hours looking at a computer or hand-held device during the school year.
Backpacks have long been a health concern as carrying an overweight bag improperly can create several concerning health conditions such as poor posture, muscle strain, joint pain, and headaches. The common use of technology with computers, tablets, and phones can also impact your spinal health as it causes you to crane your neck and put pressure on your neck, shoulders, and upper back.
WEARING YOUR BACKPACK RIGHT
No one wants to carry a heavy backpack every day but choosing the right bag and carrying it properly can help you avoid pain and injury. It is not unheard of for patients to experience upper shoulder pain, low back pain, neck pain, and even headaches from an improperly worn or heavy backpack.
Be sure to purchase a bag that has a padded back and wide, padded adjustable straps that will help prevent the weight from digging into pressure points. Though it may look cool to sling a backpack over one shoulder or to use a messenger-style back, wearing both straps on your shoulders will evenly distribute the weight across your body to prevent muscle strain and fatigue. If your bag has a waist strap, using it can help to reduce the chance of back pain. Though a smaller backpack may seem appealing for your profile, your backpack should be proportionate to your body. The top of the bag shouldn’t be higher than your shoulders and the bottom should be above your hips.
Pack your bag strategically with the heaviest items close to the body and make use of the pockets with lighter and smaller items. Be mindful of the weight of your bag as well, it should not be more than 10% of your body. Heavy bags not only can be painful to carry but also cause you to lean forward and increase your risk for rounded hunched shoulders and affect the curvature of your spine.
ADJUST YOUR POSTURE
It is no myth that our increasing dependence on technology has affected our day-to-day lives–but it also affects our posture. More patients are reporting wrist pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain. When you bend your neck to look downward, every inch can put 10 additional pounds on your neck, so it’s no surprise that people complain of neck pain or tense shoulders and upper back strain.
We recommend limiting your technology usage with a 15-minute break every hour, stretching regularly, and allowing your eyes to relax. Bring any mobile devices to eye level and adjust computer monitors so that you can sit up straight with your chest out and shoulders back comfortably with both feet on the ground. While you read, be sure to keep your head over your neck and shoulders and rest your back against the chair.
Before engaging in any strenuous activity, remember to warm up and stretch for at least 15 minutes to allow your body to become more limber and reduce your risk of muscle strain. Don’t forget to cool down afterward as well!
You can even learn some seated stretches to help relieve tension and aches while seated in class.
Remember sleep is your body’s time to heal and repair from the day-to-day stresses of life. Adults need around 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and children need even more. Getting a consistent good night’s rest can help lower stress levels, ease chronic inflammation, and allow your body to rejuvenate.
For better sleep, we recommend avoiding exercising, caffeine, and electronics at least an hour before bed to allow your eyes and mind to wind down. Darken the room and lower the temperature to create a restful environment, some patients may even use a white noise machine to block out any distractions. Making a sleep schedule that tells you when to wake up and get ready for bed can also help your body to establish a routine so that you can function at your best.