Posts Tagged ‘posture’

Backpack Awareness: Tips to Help Kids Avoid Backpack Pain & Injuries This School Year

Backpack AwarenessIf you have a child who’s middle-school age or older, you’re very aware of their overloaded backpack. Or maybe you’re in school and suffering from overly weighty textbooks. Whoever carries the load in your family, it’s time for everyone to take the backpack seriously.

Heavy backpacks and book bags cause back, neck, and shoulder pain and injury. It’s a fact. That’s why the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) instituted the third Wednesday in September – this year, it’s September 19th – as National School Backpack Awareness Day™.

Consider these facts from AOTA:

  • More than 79 million children in the U.S. carry school backpacks.
  • More than 2,000 backpack-related injuries were treated in ERs, clinics, and doctors’ offices in 2007 alone.
  • About 55% of students carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guideline of 10% of the wearer’s body weight.

That’s right. A loaded backpack should never weigh more than 10% of the wearer’s bodyweight (15% at absolute max). That means a 100-pound child’s backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10 pounds. You’re thinking, “Try telling that to my kid’s teacher!” right? Well, there are some steps you can take to improve your child’s lot. Take a moment and share these back-saving tips:

  1. Choose the right bag. School backpacks are sized according to age group, so be sure to get one that’s not too big. Choose a light-weight bag with wide, well-padded shoulder straps, a padded back, and a waist strap. Avoid leather shoulder straps, as they add unnecessary weight. If you know your load is going to exceed the 10% rule on a regular basis, get a bag with wheels. Don’t risk injury.
  2. Pack your bag properly. Load the heaviest items first, so they’ll be closest to your back, and arrange books and materials so they don’t slide around. Pack only what’s necessary. Do you really need that laptop? If not, leave it out. If you have to, carry a book or two by hand to avoid breaking the 10% rule.
  3. Carry your bag correctly. Always wear your backpack on both shoulders and wear the waist belt, so that the weight is distributed evenly. You may think it looks cool to sling your pack over one shoulder, but you’re putting your back at risk for injury. Adjust the shoulder and waist straps so that the pack fits snugly. The backpack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and should never be more than 4 inches below the waistline (if it’s hitting your bottom, it’s too low).

As the school year gets going, pay attention to your child’s load. If your child is struggling to get the backpack on or off, complains of back pain, or has to lean forward to carry the pack, it’s probably too heavy. And carrying an overloaded backpack shouldn’t have to be a childhood rite of passage.

Do you or your child carry a heavy backpack to class? How do you handle the load? We welcome your questions and feedback in the comments section below.

Smartphone Thumb: When the Toys We Love Don’t Love Us Back

Smartphone ThumbOh, how we love our smartphones. With a wealth of information available at the touch of a screen and friends, family, and colleagues a quick text, email, or phone call away, it’s like having the world in the palm of your hand. You wouldn’t expect something so wonderful to cause you pain, which just adds to the indignity of smartphone thumb.

Smartphone thumb may sound silly, but the pain that results from overuse can be text stopping. Smartphone thumb is a repetitive stress injury defined by pain or discomfort in the wrist and thumb when bending either one toward the pinkie finger. You may also experience a dull ache in the base of your thumb or pain and snapping in your thumb when you bend and straighten it.

So what exactly causes that pain? Smartphone thumb comes from typing on a little keyboard with your thumbs while holding your hands in an awkward position. But we depend so much on these amazing gadgets that we’ll put up with a lot of pain before even thinking about setting them aside.

If you’re suffering from smartphone overuse, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Limit your use of your cell phone for texting, emailing, gaming, and Internet searching. When possible, use a computer with a regular-sized keyboard or plug a larger keyboard into your smartphone.
  • Hold your phone in one hand and type with your index finger rather than your thumbs.
  • Stop and rest your hands if you feel discomfort and gently stretch your thumbs, fingers and wrists.
  • Watch your posture. Don’t hunch over your phone, and do take time to stretch regularly.
  • Use ice packs to reduce inflammation.

Pain associated with smartphones isn’t relegated solely to your thumbs and wrists. You may experience pain in your elbows, neck, and shoulders, particularly if you hold your cell phone to your ear or cradle your cell phone (or regular land line phone) between your ear and shoulder. That pain is pretty easily preventable – simply stop holding your cell phone to your ear or cradling your cell phone between your shoulder and ear. Use your speaker phone or a hands-free ear device, like the ear phones/speaker that come with most phones. They work great.If you’ve followed our advice above and still feel pain, it may be time to seek help. The orthopedic hand & upper extremity experts at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center can work with you to set up a stretching and exercise plan to help reduce or reverse your pain.

Do you have smartphone thumb? If so, what steps have you taken to prevent it? We welcome your questions and feedback in the comments section below.

Is Your Desk Job Hurting You?

Neck Back Pain Desk Job PostureThese days, more and more jobs are desk jobs, meaning many people spend a minimum of eight hours a day behind their desks and at their computers. I frequently see patients with neck and back pain with no specific injury, but who spend many hours behind a computer. This type of work can have a number of health implications, including muscle and joint pain.

If you’re a desk jockey, one of the easiest things you can do to prevent pain from a poor workstation set-up is to have an ergonomic setup designed just for you. You want your chair and work station to fit you properly. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

  • Be sure your body is properly aligned with your desk and your computer. You should be able to sit straight in front of your computer and not have to turn from side to side to access it.
  • Keep your head, neck, and torso in line, and keep your arms and elbows close to your body but within reaching distance of your keyboard. You shouldn’t have to reach forward to use your keyboard.
  • While typing, your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle from your body, and your wrists and hands should be in a straight line, with your wrists in a neutral position, not arched or bent.
  • To prevent back pain, be sure your chair has good back support.
  • When you’re sitting, your thighs should be parallel to the ground or a little higher than your knees, and your feet should touch the ground. You don’t want the end of chair hitting the back of your knees—you want a little gap there.

Neck pain is a common complaint of people who spend a lot of time on the phone. If you find yourself cradling your phone between your shoulder and chin so you can type and talk at the same time, switch to a headset or use a speaker phone.

Don’t forget to get up and move around regularly throughout the day. If you feel pain during your work day, stretching and moving around can help ease that pain, as can a heating pad or ice pack. You may even find some relief by treating yourself to a massage at one of the many Atlanta spas. I always tell each patient to listen to your body. If you are having pain, your body is trying to send you a message. If you are having neck or back pain that isn’t improving after trying the tips above, make an appointment with an Emory Spine physiatrist for further evaluation and treatment.

Do you spend a lot of time behind a desk? What do you do to get moving and ease pain? We’d like to hear about your experience. Please take a moment to give us feedback in the comments section below.

About Diana Sodiq, DO:

Diana Sodiq, DO, is an Assistant Professor of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Medicine. She is Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Physiatry). As an osteopathic physician, Dr. Sodiq is trained in both traditional medicine as well as osteopathic manipulative treatments (OMT). She started practicing at Emory in 2010.