Tag Archives: Pain

Size Matters…Backpacks and your kids


Summer has come and gone and it’s September again. Time for back to school and back to school shopping. Number one on our shopping list this year is backpacks. The array of styles and sizes is staggering, not to mention prices. My boys are going into grade 2 and grade 3 and although they get a ride to school every day, I pick them up either on my bike or we take public transit. This means they will have their backpacks on their backs for a considerable amount of time. 

As a mom I am concerned about just how heavy their packs are, but as a physio, I am concerned about potential, long term damage to their spines. One study (http://newsroom.ucr.edu/868) reported that 64% of students in grade 7-8 had pain, 41% of them when they carried their backpack and 21% had pain more than 6 months. The researchers found reports of increased pain as the weight of backpacks increased in comparison to the weight of the child. Other research shows that adults with severe back problems often had pain as kids.

Here are my tips on how to choose a backpack for your child whether he is going to preschool or she is off to University.

1. The backpack should be the right size for them.
a. The bottom of the pack should be higher than their bum, landing just above the curve in their low back
b. The straps should be wide and padded and worn on both shouldersImage

2. Choose a well constructed lightweight backpack
a. We looked at an ObusFormR backpack that weighed a ton when it was empty! Obviously we didn’t buy that one.
b. Side pockets can help to distribute the weight more evenly

3. Fill the backpack with the heaviest items closest to your child’s back
a. This helps to keep the heavy items closer to their centre of mass

4. The backpack should not weigh more than 10% of the body weight of a child under 10, and no more than 20% for your teens. (this is my rule, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that children carry no more than 15 percent to 20 percent)
a. Say your 4 year old starting in JK is 40lbs that means her backpack should not exceed 4lbs. 
b. If your 17 year old is 100lbs, then his back pack can be up to 20lbs

5. Weigh the backpack
a. Throw the pack on a scale and see just how much it weighs
b. My boys have a tendency to collect rocks. This can make for a very heavy pack. We also empty the pack every night so things (aka rocks) don’t accumulate, needlessly adding weight

6. Don’t worry about what they have to bring home. Size matters.
a. At our school the kids get a plastic envelop, called “the mailman” to carry information back and forth from school, i.e. notes from the teacher to me, or notes from me to the teacher. It measures 10×16”. If I get a backpack to fit “the mailman”, my children will need a backpack that is adult size. Instead, we fold the envelop and the papers get crinkled. Oh well. Better to have crinkled notes than a crooked spine

7. Remind older kids to leave heavy items in their locker until they need them
a. In a pinch they could carry some items in their arms to offset the weight in the pack

Image8. The backpack should be easy to get on and off. If not it could be too heavy
a. Be sure they wear both straps on their shoulders
b. When worn incorrectly injuries to the spine can occur and last into adulthood

Size Matters! Getting the right size of back pack for your child is essential to prevent injuries. It is much harder to overload a smaller bag. But even if you do everything right, your child may still complain of a sore neck and/or back. Your pediatrician or a pediatric physiotherapist can assess for minor problems that are treatable and often curable. If there is numbness or tingling in their arms or legs, the pain is severe or is not relieved by adjusting the backpack seek medical attention right away. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 40% of the 24,000 people treated in the USA for backpack-related injuries in 2012 were kids aged 5-18!

Does your child complain of neck or back pain?

Acupuncture and Physiotherapy

I recently completed my second level course through the Acupuncture Foundation of Canada Institute (AFCI), and was humbled at the complexity and versatility of this treatment method within the scope of physiotherapy.

During the course of the weekend, we subjected ourselves to becoming pin cushions as we worked through various acupoints through out the body. By Monday morning, I woke up exhausted, stuffed up and completely lethargic. After surviving the day, I made it an early night, blaming the weather and busy weekend for my less than ideal state of mind.

Tuesday morning came around, and I woke up lighter, happier, and incredibly well-rested.  I noticed during my commute to work that my usual dull back ache did not decide to join me for the drive. My feet felt lighter, my energy levels stayed up for the entire day, even my digestion seemed to have improved! Now, I can not accurately pin-point (excuse the pun)  these positive feelings directly to all the acupuncture that I experienced over the weekend, but something must be said for a form of medicine that has been around for over 2000 years…

ImageAs a physiotherapist, my brain automatically wants to focus on the western mind set of treating the injury from a neuro-anatomical perspective, and will pick my acupuncture points based on the location of the injury.  A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner or acupuncturist, on the other hand, would treat the same condition from a very different perspective, utilizing acupoints located on meridians that run up and down our entire body.  Therefore, a general, tension-type headache can be successfully treated with acupuncture from an anatomical approach by stimulating points along our scalp and neck to release tension in those muscles. However, if we were to put on our TCM caps for a second, we could also help affect that headache by inserting a needle between our first and second toe as well as in between the first and second finger…all thanks to the meridians!

So, how can acupuncture help you with your physiotherapy treatments?

First off, with any musculoskeletal injury, our general goals in physiotherapy are to control pain, reduce inflammation and restore strength and function  so that you can continue kicking the ball with your kids, maintain your golf handicap,  and take the stairs at work (which we all do everyday, right?!) Well, the goals of acupuncture are very similar:


Goals of Acupuncture:

1. Control pain

2. Resolve inflammation

3. Provide tissue regeneration

4. Restore physiological function

5. Normalize autonomic nervous system (resets the system to allow you to heal)

As Physiotherapists, we practice anatomical acupuncture, which combines the TCM knowledge with western basic sciences in anatomy, physiology and pathology. Using the anatomical approach, we can stimulate both local points based on anatomical effects, as well as TCM points that may be located away from the site of injury.

Acupuncture is used as an adjunct to traditional physiotherapy. It can be used to relax tight muscles and promote relaxation to allow you to achieve a better stretch, or it can be used to decrease pain and inflammation. Some people see an improvement after one session, for others it may be 5-8 sessions to see a change in condition.

As amazing as this treatment tool is, it is important that you get properly assessed by a physiotherapist in order to determine whether you would benefit from acupuncture.  Until then, if that headache creeps up, try pressing into the web space between your thumb and index finger!