With school starting this month, you should be helping your school-age patients achieve correct posture.
According to numbers provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 50 million kids are enrolled in elementary and secondary school years annually, with another 20 million taking the college courses that will put them one step closer to their degrees.
While beginning the academic year usually involves making sure the students have everything they need to succeed—from pens and paper to calculators and laptops—it’s also a great time to focus on another aspect of going back to school that could greatly affect their future: Their posture.
Student-related posture injuries
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) reports that roughly 22,000 students suffer from strains, sprains, dislocations, and fractures annually. Contrary to what most may initially think, these injuries are not from playing sports or being victims of bullying, but rather from their backpacks.
The AOTA indicates that these types of “heavy load” injuries not only increase the number of emergency visits every year, but they can also affect the student well into the future in the form of low back pain.
Poor posture while sitting in class or at a desk studying all day can have negative consequences for students as well. Some of the most notable include back pain, neck pain, and headaches, but posture can even affect the student’s mood, memory, confidence, digestion, and bone strength according to a variety of studies.
As a DC, you can help your patients avoid these types of injuries and consequences by simply providing some easy-to-follow tips when it comes to backpacks and proper sitting posture.
Jackie Romanies, DC, is a pediatric and family chiropractor at Dr. Matt’s Wellness Center in Plano, Texas and she suggests that you can start by asking your patients to bring their backpack to your office. This gives you the opportunity to look at it and “adjust the backpack so that weight distribution is as even as possible with relation to their biomechanices,” she says.
Speaking of weight, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a “backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.” Informing the parents of this enables them to monitor the weight of their child’s backpack throughout the school year to ensure maximum musculoskeletal health.
Romanies also says that you should “make sure the bag is the right size for the patient.” According to the National Safety Council (NSC), this means selecting a backpack that is “never wider or longer than your child’s torso and never hanging more than 4 inches below the waist.” Anything bigger could present issues for the child both now and years into the future.
Another backpack-related tip is to “discourage the patient from wearing the backpack with only one shoulder strap,” says Romanies. This allows the student to distribute the weight of the backpack evenly, thus reducing the likelihood of injury to his or her musculoskeletal system.
Promote good posture while studying
Good posture while learning and studying is important too. “Sitting in a classroom all day can be detrimental to posture, especially with adolescent patients as they tend to slump more into their seats,” explains Romanies. Therefore, promoting good posture while sitting at their desks during class or engaged in long study sessions is critical to helping the student develop and retain good postural positioning.
“Suggest the patient stretch every single morning,” says Romanies. “Do some gentle yoga and focus on sitting with the ribs aligned above the hips, and keeping the middle and abdomen activated and erect.”
Of course, it’s also important that the student participate in regular and consistent chiropractic visits, says Romanies, as “the spine and body will react and adapt more favorably to physical demands and stress if the body is properly aligned. If a postural compensation pattern begins, corrective exercises and spinal adjustments can be used to correct this before it becomes a more serious problem.”