This article is written by Dr. Steven Cannon, Chiropractor – Neurohealth Chiropractic
The kids are already back to school. For most people this means pencils, notebook paper an mountains of textbooks.
But sending your child to start, or return to school requires some homework from the parents. Here at Neurohealth Chiropractic, we endeavor to be both your chiropractor and educator.
So here are some tips for a healthy start Back-To-School:
BACK CARE 101
Ergonomics: yes ergonomics are just as important for kids as they are at the office. Slumping over a school classroom desk, just like slumping over a work desk, can lead to a lifetime of poor postural habits. Which then in turn will lead to musculoskeletal disorders, spinal joint restrictions (vertebral subluxations) and an increased likelihood of adult onset osteoarthritis.
Students are spending more and more time at computers these days. The following are guidelines that we all should be taking note of:
- Sit up straight with feet flat on the floor or on a footrest;
- Keep lower arms level with the table and wrists straight;
- Sit close enough to the keyboard to eliminate stretching but far enough away to avoid leaning;
- Tap the keyboard lightly. Don’t pound away;
- Place the mouse within easy reach of the dominant hand;
- Try and hold the mouse loosely. Don’t squeeze;
- The monitor should be at eye level, 40-60 centimeters away;
- If using a laptop, a docking station should be used with a detachable keyboard, separate mouse (instead of finger pad) and the middle of the screen should be at eye level;
- Take short breaks every 20 minutes. Get up and move around. Go and get a drink of water;
- Exercise your eyes frequently. Look away from the monitor and focus on distant objects, which will help your eyes blink.
Backpacks: An over-stuffed, incorrectly packed or worn backpack can result in a serious injury and affect young developing spines.
How heavy is heavy? Even a backpack weighing 15 percent of a student’s body weight is too heavy to maintain a standing posture. This will cause undue stress on their young spines and can cause vertebral subluxations leading to postural changes and even scoliosis.
The current recommended guidelines is a maximum of 10 percent of your body weight should go into the backpack. This means if you weigh 30 kilograms, then 3 kilograms is the maximum. So with today’s primary school kids, after you put the lunch box and water bottle in you are already at the maximum weight.
To further minimise impact of the backpack, it is also recommended that both shoulder straps be used to help distribute the backpack’s weight evenly between the shoulders. And then the waist strap should also be used, to help distribute the weight onto the hips away from the shoulders.
In addition to creating chronic backache for years to come, improper use of the backpack will trigger neck and shoulder disorders. A study from the University of Sydney showed that the backpack’s weight and length of time had a direct correlation with neck and shoulder posture. The study concluded with that forward head posture increases when carrying a backpack with a heavy load. When we adopt forward head posture, it leads to straightening of the normal curve of the neck, a condition linked with osteoarthritis, headaches and neck pain.
Many schools these days have their own backpacks, with their own logo on the bag. Good news is that all these backpacks are approved for developing spines. They just need to be used correctly i.e. wearing, packing, and weight.
Footwear: Skimpy footwear and platform shoes may be fashionable, but they are certainly not what your feet need! Shoes that cannot provide adequate support can throw your whole skeleton out of alignment. If the foot is excessively pronating (rolling in), this will cause torsion at the knee when walking, running, or standing. This will then cause a shift in body weight into the pelvis, causing hip and low back problems. It can also lead up the whole entire chain causing the shoulders to not be level and to tilt.
Therefore correct footwear from an early age is very important.
Here are a few tips to remember when buying new school shoes
- Make sure there is plenty of wiggle room in the toe box;
- Never buy a show for your child to grow into;
- Avoid hand-me-down shoes if at all possible;
- Check the length of the foot, from the longest toe. Caution: this is not always the big toe, as 10% of the population has the second toe as the longest;
- Make sure the shoe bends in the toe box;
- Check the heel counter and make sure the shoe is supportive around the heel as this controls the foot, and helpt pronation.
Nutrition: Studies have shown a direct link with nutrition and the child’s ability to learn.
Skipping breakfast is not be an option. If you don’t give the body fuel in the way of good nutrition, especially first thing in the morning, it will not function and be able to retain simple instructions and directions.
An easy option, is to use whole ingredients, and mix them in a blender to make a smoothie for people on the go. Adding fresh berries, coconut water, raw egg, LSA (linseed, sunflower, almond meal) together can be one way to get started. Check out our book in reception on different juicing and smoothie ideas.
Parents should focus on natural, whole foods, such as whole grain cereals and fresh seasonal fruits. ‘White’ sugar and flour should be avoided. These give a sudden spike in energy, but what goes up quickly will come down just as quickly and crash and burn.
You should also avoid heavily processed items that are laden with chemical additives.
Pack water instead of soda and juice poppers. And choose raw, organic nuts over candy. Research shows that excessive sugar consumption weakens the immune system and impairs cognitive function.
Sleep: To be able to thrive, we must sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep each night, your body is not recovering and the brain cannot switch off and restore itself.
Lack of sleep not only leads to poor cognitive function but also leads to hallucinations and personality changes.
We are well aware how fatigued we are after spending the whole night awake, and lacking sleep. Lack of sleep has been shown to be linked with increased motor vehicle accidents, increase in body mass index (BMI) and greater likelihood of obesity. It also has links with increase risk of diabetes, heart conditions and psychiatric disorders such as depression and substance abuse. It also decreases one’s ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information. This point is particular important to note for children.
So with our children, to thrive academically, they need sleep – and lots of it. According the National Sleep Foundation the average school age child (5-10years) should be achieving 10-11 hours of sleep per night.
Children with fragmented sleep were characterised by lower performance on (neurobehavioural functioning) measures, particularly those that were associated with more complex tasks such as a continuous performance test or symbol-digit substitution. These children have also been shown to have higher rates of behavioural problems reported by their parents.
Over-scheduling, non-enforced bedtimes, sharing a bed with a sibling and breathing problems – such as sleep apnea, and snoring – can rob a child their night’s rest. It is also essential to keep televisions, video games, radios, and telephones out of your child’s bedroom during sleeping hours as these only serve as distractions and will disturbed their sleep.
Checkup: Between the endless trips to the shopping mall for new shoes, new clothes and new school supplies, take a few moments to schedule a back-to-school chiropractic check up for your child. This will help their nervous system to start the scholastic year free of interference and flourish their learning.
And also don’t forget to bring in your child’s school backpack, so that we can check the bag and instruct on proper use of the backpack.