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Backpack Safety

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Aug 21st, 2013

It’s that time of year again – back to school season! And most kids will need a new backpack.

I spoke with Julia Brooks a physiotherapist from the Alberta Children’s Hospital and she tells me they are already seeing teens with chronic neck, shoulder and back pain. And that carrying too much weight in an ill-fitting backpack can cause pain or worsen existing pain.

So, the key is to start young with a backpack that fits properly. Julia says backpacks should hit the kids between the shoulders and the waist. She says to make sure the pack has wide, padded shoulder straps, a waist strap and a chest strap.

And the rule of thumb is… a child should be carrying less than 10 percent of their body weight. So my 5 year old for example, weighs 50 pounds. So she should not have more than 5 pounds in that backpack. But the weight adds up so fast. Here are Julia’s tips for reducing the weight in a backpack:

– kids should use a clipboard daily and transfer notes into their big binder at home

– only take the textbooks you need for the day

– try leaving a pair of indoor shoes at school, rather than carrying them back and forth

– try leaving a water bottle at school too

Then when it comes to packing the backpack Julia recommends putting the heaviest material closest to the body so you can work with your core muscles not against them.

And the age group to watch out for are the older kids. Julia says teens have so many textbooks, sit so long at school and at home and tend to have poor posture. These kids really need to be carrying less weight on their backs.

Also be mindful of children in growth spurts. Julia explains that muscles grow faster than bones, so children tend to go through periods where they’re not flexible and not moving properly. Here again, it’s critical to be carrying as little weight as possible at this time.

And if you can get your child to use one of those rolling backpacks, Julia says they’re a great option.

Happy back to school shopping!!

Leah Sarich – Health Specialist: Jaw Pain

Leah Sarich | posted Monday, Aug 19th, 2013

Do you get regular headaches? Neck pain? There are many things that can cause this type of pain but one cause that is often overlooked is the jaw.

I spoke with Orthodontist Dr. Sam Daher who says the muscles of mastication or chewing muscles run up the side of the head and down the neck. And if these muscles get overworked, like any muscles in the body after a workout, there can be a build up of lactic acid that causes pain in these areas. And these muscles can be easily overworked.

If you clench or grind your teeth, if your bite is off, if you have a small jaw … all these situations can cause jaw muscle fatigue. Dr. Daher says people with this kind of pain should avoid chewing gum for more than 10 minutes a day. He also says chewing your fingernails can be particularly hard on these muscles. Even putting your chin in your hand and leaning on a desk or table while you work at your computer or watch TV can overwork those muscles.

Dr. Daher says for those with chronic pain in the jaw area, a trip to the orthodontist may be necessary. Your orthodontist may recommend you get your bite fixed with braces or Invisalign. This process takes on average about 18 months. If you are still experiencing pain after your bite has been fixed you may require jaw surgery to reset the jaw.

Bottomline, if you’re experiencing headaches and neck pain make sure you explore muscle fatigue in the jaw area because there is no need to live with pain.