It’s that time of year again: back to school. This means something different for all of my patients–some of you are teachers, others are parents of young children or are even helping move your son or daughter back to college after a long, hopefully relaxing summer. By now, the newness has worn off and routine has started to hopefully set in. With routine comes realizations of added stress, posture changes, back/neck pain or even sports injuries. Regardless of your role this fall, back-to-school is a time to zero in on preventative measures when it comes to posture, sports, backpack weight and general healthy living.
Fall is a beautiful season with lots of positive associations, but it’s also a time for increased stress due to schedule changes, long nights at sporting events and even longer nights of homework help. Along with this increased stress comes a higher chance for injury, especially to your back or neck. For both you and your children–no matter their ages–there are measures you should take in order to prevent back pain, neck pain or sports injuries during the school year. Read on to see what you can do to help everyone’s transition into school go as smoothly (and as pain free) as possible.
Pay attention to how your children wear their backpacks. Wearing it slung over one shoulder instead of snugly fitted across both shoulders can lead to neck strain, back pain and muscle spasms on either side. This is also common with messenger bags, so encourage your child to either switch shoulders with his or her messenger bag or to simply choose a backpack with two straps.
Make sure weight is distributed evenly inside the backpack. If you notice that books slide to one corner of the other and the weight is uneven, try and utilize the interior pockets for storage so that heavier items stay centered. Centering the weight of your child’s backpack will minimize disproportionate stress and strain on the back and neck regions.
Measure how low your child’s backpack sits below his or her waistline. If it dips further than 4 inches below your child’s waist, it can cause additional shoulder strain and cause him or her to lean forward to carry the backpack, placing the majority of the weight on the spine. Adjust the straps so that it sits high and snug on your child’s shoulders.
If you consistently notice that your child’s backpack is heavy, make sure you remove items that can stay at home and encourage him or her to leave items that can stay at school in their locker or desk. This will reserve the backpack space only for items that need to come home or go back to school.
With added stress comes added risk of neck, back and head pain or even a higher risk of injury during after-school activities. For both you and your child, making time to relax and unwind is essential. Increased stress causes muscles to remain tense and rigid, resulting in easier injury and painful muscle spasms. Also, stress decreases your ability to concentrate, lowering athletic and academic performance.
In addition to making you and your child more injury-prone, stress lowers the immune system and can result in the onset of illness. Both injury and illness can lower self-confidence when it comes to both athletics and academics, making it all the more difficult to combat stress in the first place.
Prevent stress by designating time every day for your child to simply relax and have fun. Play board games, watch a movie or go outside–all of these activities will help release tension and quiet the mind. This tip is important for parents, too! You are just as susceptible to the perils of stress during the school year, so be extra attentive to your own needs also.
Beating stress is dependent on your family’s lifestyle. Proper nutrition, plenty of rest and regular physical activity all work wonders on your emotional health. As always, feel free to schedule an appointment with me for any of your family’s lifestyle needs–adjustments, nutrition plans or fitness routines!
Athletic performance concerns and sports injuries are very common at the start, middle and end of the school year. Your child wants to start out at the top of his or her game, but this isn’t always the case and it isn’t realistic. Athleticism takes practice and the return of sports that typically weren’t played all summer long means the re-occurrence or sudden onset of sports-related injuries.
Children of all ages need regular exercise, whether they are practicing athletes or not. Cardiovascular activities can vary from timed sprints to running around with friends, but for competitive athletes, exercise is even more important. It primes the body for activity, helps strengthen supporting muscles to prevent overuse or injury and increases skill retention. Exercise routines vary from person to person and from sport to sport, so if you have an athlete in the family, I recommend scheduling an assessment and examination with me to get them off to a great start this season.
Make sure your athlete gets plenty of rest, water and time to cool down after bouts of strenuous activity. Muscle recovery is essential in gaining strength, speed and the prevention of injury. If your child complains of sharp pains, numbness or muscle spasms, always have him or her rest, ice the area and receive a chiropractic examination to make sure proper healing or treatment can occur.
Sports injuries are common, but can cause lasting effects if left untreated. Maximize your child’s performance by being aware of all the aforementioned points this sports season.
Best of health,
Dr. Chad M. Hoffman