Go Forth and Learn: Chiropractic’s Back to School Tips
By Sara Butler
There are some parents out there who are sad when their children return to school, but I am not one of them. My tears firmly fall into the Tears of Joy category! I love my kids, but by the time school starts again I’m ready for them to go forth and learn. Out of my house and away from me.
This doesn’t mean I just shove my kids out the door and yell “Smell you later!” as I put on “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and sing at the top of my lungs. I love my kids, and I want them to start their school year off with their best foot forward. A big part of that means ensuring their health – not just because school is a giant petri dish that breeds sniffling, sick children, but also because there are habits my children need to learn now to protect their spinal health as well as their overall health for the rest of their lives. One part starts at the chiropractor, but the rest are found in these suggestions to keep their little spines healthy and happy all year long!
The Back Pack
Sure, your child may love that Frozen backpack (who doesn’t) or want that awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpack, but is it really the right backpack for them? You have to find a backpack that will fit your child and be kind to their little spine. You can do this by buying a backpack that has these characteristics:
- It’s lightweight and fits snugly against the body.
- It’s made of canvas or vinyl.
- It has two wide, padded straps for the shoulders as well as a waist strap.
Alas, a quality backpack is only as good as the way it’s actually packed. When packing stuff up for your child, you should make sure to:
- Put the heaviest things as close to the back as possible, close to their body.
- Put bumpy or odd-shaped things (those 354 boxes of tissue you have to buy, for example) should not be packed against the body.
- Keep the weight of their backpack at less than 10 percent of their body weight.
Who knew backpacks could be so complicated?
Your child is probably sick of you telling them to stand up straight, but rest assured that you’re right to keep doing it. You can even throw in some more “torture by posture lecture” through talking to them about how they sit in their desk at school.
Many children sit at their desks slumped over, looking down at what they're working on. While this may not always be able to be avoided, it is a good idea to get them to understand if they can limit the amount of time they do it then it will be healthier for their back and neck. When they sit in this posture for long periods they are putting themselves at risk for back and neck pain or discomfort – and they’re too young for that!
To sit correctly at a desk they should:
- Have their feet flat on the floor.
- Keep their shoulders relaxed.
- Sit with their back against the back of the chair.
- Keep their ears over their shoulders and their chin tucked slightly down.
- Keep any screens (or books) at eye level.
You have to remember that even young children can be negatively impacted by poor desk posture, so it’s never too early to give them this talk. You know how much kids love those!
If your child is a sports enthusiast who took a break over the summer, they will need to remember to slowly condition themselves to get back into the game. Children have this crazy idea that they have no limitations. Though their bodies do tend to be a bit more flexible than an adult’s, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take the time to ease back into physical activities.
Make sure they:
- Take extra time to warm up – at least 10 to 15 minutes.
- Take time to stretch after they’re done.
- Keep their workouts reasonable for their skill level, age, and physical fitness.
- Do a lot of activities in order to keep repetitive injuries away – kids need to try different things as they undergo muscle development as they grow.
Of course, your friendly neighborhood chiropractor is always ready and willing to help your child be successful both at school and on the playing field, so if you have questions or concerns, you may want to bring them up during your next visit to The Joint Chiropractic.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy some silence now that my kids are back at school. And then I’m going to turn up the Pharrell Williams.