Backpacks Shouldn’t Be a Back-to-School Burden on Health

Backpacks Shouldn’t Be a Back-to-School Burden on Health

SATURDAY, Aug. 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Books, tablets, lunch: Stuff can really start to weigh heavily in your kid’s school backpack.

And so experts at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) are offering tips on backpack safety to parents as a new school year begins.

That’s because heavy and improperly worn backpacks can trigger back, neck and shoulder-related pain in children, the group says. In fact, in 2018, almost 51,000 people were seen for backpack-related injuries at emergency departments, doctors’ offices and clinics, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“Back pain due to improperly wearing and overloading a backpack is a common symptom,” AAOS spokesperson Dr. Afshin Razi, an orthopedic spine surgeon, said in an academy news release. “To limit injuries or back pain, encourage your children to limit the load and utilize both padded straps for proper posture and weight distribution.”

Ideally, healthy children with a normal body weight should not carry more than 10%-20% of their body weight in a backpack.

Always have kids use both shoulder straps when carrying a backpack, so that the weight is distributed more evenly across the back. Tighten backpack straps to keep the load closer to the back, as well. The bottom of the backpack should sit at waist level, the AAOS said.

Kids should carry only items that are required for the school day, and heavier items should be packed low and towards the center of the pack.

If you see that your child is struggling to put on or remove a backpack due to weight, have them remove some books and carry them in their arms.

It might also be necessary to talk to the school about lightening the book load the students have to carry in their backpacks. Getting other parents involved in that effort could help convince schools to make changes, the AAOS said.

School lockers are a good resource, of course, so encourage kids to stop at their lockers whenever possible, to drop off or exchange heavier books.

When lifting a backpack, bend at the knees.

Back or neck issues could still arise, and parents should encourage children to alert them about any numbness, tingling or discomfort in the arms or legs, which may indicate a poor backpack fit or too much weight.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on backpack safety.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, Aug. 19, 2019

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
One-Third of U.S. Kids Have Back Pain, Study Says

One-Third of U.S. Kids Have Back Pain, Study Says

TUESDAY, March 12, 2019 (HealthDay News) — As American kids pack on the pounds, the number of those with back pain is on the rise.

One in three between the ages of 10 and 18 said they had backaches in the past year, according to a survey of about 3,700 youngsters. The incidence rose along with kids’ age and weight and was higher among those who play competitive sports.

Though many people probably associate back pain with older people, the orthopedic surgeon who led the study was not surprised by his findings.

“We see a lot of kids who have pain from overuse injuries or joint pain from playing sports,” said Dr. Peter Fabricant, who treats pediatric patients at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “Of these kids who had back pain, very few actually required any sort of medical intervention. Most didn’t need treatment at all.”

About 80 percent of adults suffer from lower back pain at some time, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

But this is the first time the extent of back pain among children has been estimated on nationwide scale, the authors said. The youngsters surveyed were equally split by age and gender.

On average, those who reported back pain weighed more and had higher body mass indexes, or BMIs. (BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.)

Back pain was more common among girls than boys (38 percent to 29 percent). And the percentage reporting back pain rose about 4 percent with each year of increasing age, according to the authors. Most often, pain affected the lower back.

Nearly half said they hurt in the evenings and more than 15 percent said back pain interrupted their sleep. Only 41 percent sought treatment, and most who did had physical therapy.

Participation in competitive sports was strongly linked to back pain, with junior varsity and varsity athletes experiencing it more often than younger or recreational players. Most survey participants were active, with basketball the most commonly played sport, followed by dance, baseball, football and soccer.

Another contributor to kids’ back pain is the backpacks they use to tote their stuff, researchers said. Those who used one strap to carry their packs reported significantly more back pain than did those who used both straps.

Those who used rolling backpacks reported back pain the most often. Fabricant said it wasn’t clear whether pain prompted their use of the rolling packs or whether the rolling packs contributed to their pain.

While long-term pain prospects are unclear, Fabricant said “it would certainly stand to reason” that kids who experience backaches would be more likely to do so as adults.

Dr. Henock Wolde-Semait is a pediatric orthopedist at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., who reviewed the findings. He said the results mirror what he sees in his own practice.

“Lots of kids have back pain for various reasons. It seems like it’s on the rise,” he said.

“The majority of them do well [without surgical treatment], which is why in the past this may have been overlooked or taken for granted,” Wolde-Semait added.

Fabricant suggested parents urge their kids to avoid any sport or activity related to their back pain. Physical therapy may help by stretching and strengthening key muscles, he said, and it’s wise to avoid carrying backpacks on only one shoulder.

Wolde-Semait said excessive screen time may also play a role in kids’ back pain. He said youngsters should seek “moderation in every aspect.”

The study is to be presented March 12 at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ annual meeting, in Las Vegas. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

Harvard Health offers tips for a pain-free back.

SOURCES: Peter Fabricant, M.D., M.P.H., pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, N.Y.; Henock Wolde-Semait, M.D., pediatric orthopedist, NYU Winthrop Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.; presentation, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting, Las Vegas, March 12, 2019

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
An Expert’s Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

An Expert’s Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

THURSDAY, Oct. 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Back pain is a common problem in the United States, but there are ways to protect yourself, an expert says.

“The back is a complex structure with many delicate parts, but with good judgment and healthy lifestyle habits — including proper lifting, good posture and exercise — it’s possible to avoid common back pain caused by strained muscles,” said Dr. Lawrence Lenke. He is director of spinal deformity surgery at the Spine Hospital at New York-Presbyterian in New York City.

For more complicated spinal problems such as scoliosis, stenosis, fractures or injuries, medical intervention is usually necessary, Lenke said.

“But each person with or without spinal problems can benefit from adopting healthier lifestyle habits to keep your spine as strong as possible,” he said.

Lenke offered this advice:

  • Maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke, do stretching and strengthening exercises that increase back and abdomen flexibility, and get regular cardiovascular exercise. If your job involves a lot of sitting, get up and walk around every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Maintain good posture even while sitting. Don’t slouch or hold your head too far forward. Be sure your feet are supported, hips are level with or slightly above the knees and your spine is slightly reclined. There should be a small arch in the lower back.
  • When sitting at a computer, your shoulders should be relaxed and away from the ears. Your elbows should be at the sides, bent to about 90 degrees, and your wrists should be neutral — not bent up, down or away from each other. Your head should face ahead without being too far forward.
  • When using a mobile device for non-voice activities, hold it up instead of bending your neck to look down. At just 45 degrees, the work your neck muscles are doing is equal to lifting a 50-pound bag of potatoes.
  • When lifting, make sure objects are properly balanced and packed correctly so weight won’t shift. Keep the weight close to your body. And take your time. Bend at the hips and knees and use your legs to lift. Maintain proper posture with your back straight and head up.

More information

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has more on preventing back pain.

SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital, news release, Oct. 16, 2018

Low Back Pain? These Exercises May Help

Low Back Pain? These Exercises May Help

THURSDAY, Aug. 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Low back pain is a common health complaint. And if it sidelines you for too long, it can lead to weight gain, a loss in your fitness level and keep you from doing things you love.

But not moving isn’t the answer — specific exercises can help you get back to everyday activities. If you’re under the care of an orthopedist or physical therapist, you may be given a series of exercises to do up to three times a day.

Here are three in particular that may help.

Tummy contractions. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip-width apart, and your hands on your tummy below your ribcage. Tighten your abs — it should feel as though your ribcage is being pressed toward your back. Hold for five seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Knee-to-chest stretch. Begin in the same starting position, but for this exercise, place both hands on the back of your left thigh and gently pull the knee to your chest. Hold for 20 seconds, then relax. Repeat five times with the left leg, then switch to the right leg and repeat the entire sequence.

Body stretch sequence. Sit on a large exercise ball with knees bent at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Move your feet slightly out to the sides for balance. First, lift your left arm straight up over your head, then lower it and repeat with the right arm; alternate five times. Next, slowly raise and lower your left heel, then slowly raise and lower your right heel; alternate five times. Finally, raise your left arm overhead and your right heel off the floor at the same time, lower them and reverse, raising your right arm overhead and lifting your left heel off the floor; alternate five times.

Another type of exercise that may help is yoga. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who took a weekly class designed for those with low back pain were helped just as much as those who did traditional physical therapy, and needed less pain medication over time.

More information

The University of California, Berkeley, has detailed information on low back pain and more exercises that can help ease it.

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
4 Physical Therapy Exercises for Lower Back Pain

4 Physical Therapy Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is often related to tightness in the surrounding muscles. Here are four exercises and stretches that can offer relief.

Common everyday habits, like sitting at your desk for long periods of time, can leave you with lower back pain and decreased mobility. While we recommend consulting an orthopedic specialist to rule out a serious injury, in many cases a few basic physical therapy exercises can help relieve your symptoms.

Focus on exercises that help you stretch tight muscles, as well as strengthen the torso to relieve stress on the lumbar spine. While the pain may be concentrated in the lower back, muscles connected to the area, like the hamstrings, may also be a cause of discomfort. The following exercises can help you strengthen supporting muscles and release tension in the area as a whole

1. PIRIFORMIS STRETCH

The piriformis muscle in the buttock stretches from the bottom of the spine to the femur. Piriformis tightness, especially if it irritates the nearby sciatic nerve, can cause pain that runs from the lower back all the way into the legs and feet.

To stretch this muscle, first lie flat on your back. Cross your right leg over your left, grasping your right shin with your left hand. Gently pull your right ankle over to the left side of your body and up toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Then bend your left knee and bring it up toward your right leg. Grasp your left knee with your left hand and gently pull it toward your torso. You should feel this stretch in your top leg. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, and repeat with the other side. This exercise can help relieve much of the tightness that can build from sitting all day or overusing the muscle.

2. PSOAS MAJOR STRETCH

The psoas major muscle, also known as your hip flexor, connects your lower spine to the top of your thigh, and can become tight and tense if you stay seated for too long. The discomfort may manifest in your lower back as well as your hips. Symptoms of an injury can include difficulty kneeling, standing for long periods, or rising from a seated position.

To perform this stretch, lie on your back, either with your buttocks at the edge of a bed, or on the floor with a towel or foam roller beneath your lower back. You want your extended legs to be able to drop downward, if possible. Bend one knee and bring it up to your chest, pulling it gently with your hands. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute, as long as you don’t feel pain. Repeat with the other leg, and stretch each leg at least three times.

3. HAMSTRING STRETCH

The hamstrings run down the back of your thighs, from the hips to the back of the knees These muscles can easily become tight and cause discomfort in your lower back, especially if you spend eight hours a day sitting in an office chair. Performing hamstring stretches for at least 30 seconds to a minute, twice a day, can go a long way toward easing tension.

One simple stretch is the chair hamstring stretch. While standing, place the heel of one foot on a chair so that your leg makes a straight line. Bending from your hips, lean forward and reach toward your toes. Stop and hold when you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Then repeat with the other leg.

Alternatively, you can try a wall hamstring stretch, which allows you to lie down and avoid stress on the spine. It’s best to use a doorway where you can stretch one leg at a time, but you can also lie on your back and put both of your legs straight up on the wall at once, with your buttocks next to the wall. As you inch close to the wall and straighten your knees, you should feel the stretch in the back of your legs.

4. BIRD DOG

This mat exercise will help you strengthen and stabilize your lower back. Start on your hands and knees with your core tight and your back flat. Extend one leg behind you, with your hips level, and hold for 5-10 seconds. Then simultaneously lift your opposite arm out in front of you and hold. Repeat this 10 times for each leg, and be sure to keep your core tight and your back in position throughout.

LOWER BACK EXERCISES TO AVOID

The above exercises are an effective way to relieve lower back pain. However, there are some exercises that can make the issue worse. Touching your toes, for example, can stress the spine and overstretch your hamstrings. We also advise against doing sit-ups if you’re suffering from back pain, since they tend to actually stress the hips and put pressure on the spinal discs.

It’s best to perform the above exercises after consulting a doctor, and under the supervision of a physical therapist. Be sure to warm up and cool down when you attempt these stretches, to avoid stressing the area and causing spasms or strains. Never force the body into a position that causes pain. In some cases, back issues may be related to “inhibited” muscles, which do not respond to strengthening exercises, and may require an orthopedic specialist’s intervention.

If you’ve tried these exercises and your back pain persists or worsens, the orthopedic specialists at CompOrtho can help you rule out underlying issues and help you develop a productive healing plan.

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