TUESDAY, Aug. 13, 2019 (HealthDay News) — A well-organized backpack helps ensure that your child has everything needed for school. Problems start when it becomes overloaded. Lugging around a heavy pack can lead to bad posture, back pain and worse.
The problem is so pervasive that the American Occupational Therapy Association created National School Backpack Awareness Day. It’s held every September to share ideas to keep kids safe.
You can protect your kids by making sure that their packs are properly fitted and properly loaded. Here’s how.
When shopping for a backpack, make sure that its width and length match each child’s torso. It shouldn’t hang more than 4 inches below the waist. The bottom of the pack should closely align with the curve of the child’s lower back — if it wobbles back and forth, spine problems can develop.
Other features to look for include wide, padded and adjustable shoulder straps. A waist, hip and/or chest belt will more evenly distribute the load. A backpack with many compartments allows for its content to be well spaced throughout. For traffic safety, the pack should have reflective accents that will help cars and other vehicles see your child in low light conditions.
Before loading the pack, have your child put it on and adjust the straps for a snug fit. Put the heaviest items at the back of the pack. Arrange the contents so items won’t slide around as your child moves.
When filled, a backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 5% to 10% of your child’s weight, so 8 pounds for a child who weighs 80 pounds. Don’t guesstimate — test it on your scale. If the pack is too heavy, take out a book or another item that your child can carry in his or her hands or stow in a locker.
Finally, make sure your child wears the pack on their back and not swung onto just one shoulder.
MONDAY, May 13, 2019 (HealthDay News) — If your back aches while on the job, you have plenty of company: New research shows that nearly 40 million American workers suffer from chronic lower back pain.
In all, that’s more than a quarter of the workforce reporting lower back pain severe enough to affect their ability to work. As striking as these findings are, the researchers believe that many more workers suffer from lower back pain than the study captured.
“A lot of the cases of back pain have been attributed to work, but most workers haven’t even discussed with their doctor whether it might be related to work,” said lead author Dr. Sara Luckhaupt, a medical officer at the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
In addition, many workers miss work because of the pain or change jobs because of it, she said.
Luckhaupt said that both men and women reported suffering from lower back pain. Sufferers were more likely to be 45 to 64. Obesity can also contribute to lower back pain, she added.
The greatest number of workers with lower back pain worked in construction, building maintenance and grounds cleaning, Luckhaupt said, “so, jobs that require a lot of manual labor.”
In addition, people whose jobs requires lifting, pulling or standing reported more lower back pain, Luckhaupt said.
One specialist said it’s difficult to determine if someone’s lower back pain is really work-related.
“Work environment can worsen back pain, but often it’s difficult to assign causative factors to the back pain in the absence of a specific incident,” said Dr. Qusai Hammouri, an orthopedic surgeon at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.
“So, it’s difficult to say if work caused your back pain, or you had back pain and then it got worse as you worked more,” said Hammouri, who wasn’t involved with the research.
For the study, Luckhaupt and her colleagues surveyed more than 19,000 adults in 2015. The participants were asked whether they had lower back pain and if it was work-related, and whether their pain affected their work.
More than a quarter of those surveyed (26%) said they suffered from lower back pain. Extrapolating the data, the researchers determined that represents nearly 40 million workers.
The report was published online May 13 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Another expert not part of the study says back pain can be made worse by repeat motions.
“Pain in the back in working-age adults who are otherwise well occurs without a violent precipitant and is exacerbated by motion of the low back,” said Dr. Nortin Hadler, an emeritus professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Hadler added that this kind of pain is not necessarily work-related. “It can start in workers when not at work and persists outside work,” he said.
For example, it can be difficult to lift a package, whether in the warehouse, or “in the crib [such as a baby] — where the ‘package’ has no handles and squirms,” Hadler said.
Luckhaupt said that treating lower back pain often involves several kinds of treatment, including physical therapy and painkillers.
She added that often pain can be controlled with nonopioid painkillers.
“Most importantly, workers with back pain should talk with their employers to see if there are things that they can do to make the work healthier,” Luckhaupt said.
THURSDAY, April 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Are you neglecting or even unaware of the muscles in your back? If so, you’re putting yourself at risk.
The trapezius is the diamond-shaped muscle that runs from neck to middle back and from shoulder to shoulder across the back. The latissimus dorsi — or “lats” — are the large back muscles that run from either side of the spine to your waist.
Here are two strength-training exercises that will help you develop these muscles for better upper body fitness.
Important: Start with a weight that allows you to complete at least eight reps with proper form, perhaps as low as 2-pound dumbbells. Build up to 10 to 15 reps for one complete set, and progress from one to three complete sets before increasing the weight. Never jerk the weights — controlled, steady movement is what brings results.
Standing dumbbell rows target the trapezius muscles as well as the upper arms and shoulders. Stand straight, feet shoulder-width apart, with a weight in each hand. Your elbows should be slightly bent, the dumbbells touching the fronts of your thighs, palms facing your body. As you exhale, use a slow, controlled movement to lift the weights straight up by bending the elbows up and out to bring the weights to shoulder level. Hold for a second, then inhale as you lower your arms to the starting position. Repeat.
Bent-over one-arm rows target the lats as well as the upper arms and shoulders. To work the right side first, stand to the right side of a bench. Place your left knee and left hand on it for support. Your back should be nearly parallel to the floor. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing inward. Using only your upper arm, bend at the elbow to lift the dumbbell straight up to your waist as you exhale. Hold for a second and then lower it with control as you inhale. Complete reps, then switch sides and repeat.
You can also do bent-over rows using both arms at once. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and, bending from the waist, bring your back to nearly parallel with the floor. Keeping arms close to your sides, bend the elbows to lift the weights, bringing them up to waist level. Hold for a second and then lower the weights with control as you inhale. Repeat.
The American Council on Exercise has more on exercises targeting the back muscles.
THURSDAY, March 21, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Ever had a bad spasm from bending down to pick up your child or tie your shoes?
Keeping your core muscles — the workhorses that stabilize your spine — flexible with a stretching routine can help prevent this common occurrence and protect your back in general.
The Pelvic Tilt targets your lower back and your abdominals. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet about hip-width apart. Flatten and then press your lower back into the floor. You’ll feel your hips tilt forward. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times.
The Side Stretch helps your back and sides become more limber. In a standing position, extend your right arm above your head. Put your left hand on your hip. Slowly bend to the left without twisting or jerking. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times. Then repeat the sequence on the other side.
The Back Arch stretches hips and shoulders as well as your back. Stand up straight, legs shoulder width apart. Support your lower back with both hands and bend backwards. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times.
As a reminder, never bounce when stretching. This can cause muscles to tighten and lead to injury. Ease into every stretch with a slow, steady movement. Stop if any stretch feels uncomfortable. You should feel slight tension, but not pain. And do stretches that you hold only when your body is warm — after a workout is perfect.
Love yoga? The American Council on Exercise details how you can use yoga to work core muscles.