A Parent’s Guide to Backpack Safety

Summer is coming to a close and it is time to purchase new school supplies and especially, Backpacks. Instead of choosing the coolest new superhero or princess backpack, I encourage you to ensure that your child’s backpack fits appropriately.

A backpack that is too large or heavy, or even worn improperly, can be detrimental to your child’s posture and spinal health. Textbooks and school supplies are heavy and it is important to choose a properly sized backpack that will make sure that kids are staying safe this school year.

Size

Many children’s backpacks are more focused on bright colors and appealing to kids cartoons than they are on function. They are often oversized and impractical. When choosing a backpack, it is important to fit the bag to the size of the child.

Below, the top left image, demonstrates a backpack that is likely a little large for the child, though if the straps were shortened it may fit more appropriately. The right image demonstrates a bag that is slightly too tall and a little too wide. The boy in the bottom image has a bag that fits correctly.

A properly fitting backpack should reach from shoulder blade to shoulder blade and from the shoulders to just below the waist. Check out this article with a convenient drawing demonstrating proper landmarks for sizing.

A backpack that is too large will place stress in the wrong part of the spine and can be filled far beyond capacity.

Weight

Kids are little! A child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10-15% of their body weight. The forces through the spine from carrying a heavy backpack can be compressive and cause the child to stand with shoulders hunched forward, head forward, and a curved spine.

Packing the weight into the bag correctly is also important. Heavier items like textbooks should be placed closer to the body, while lighter/smaller items can be further forward. Weight can also be managed by minimizing how much actually goes into the backpack. Which books need to be brought home for homework? What can stay in a locker and what needs to be carried home or between classes?

Proper weight distribution comes from a number of factors in a backpack. The pack should be light when empty. Multiple compartments will aid in packing. Wide straps keep the pack from digging into the shoulders. A waist strap can help to stabilize the load.

Overall

A backpack can be fun and functional. If your child is small in stature, consider picking a backpack that is appropriately sized in a plain color and decorating it with patches or fun paints. Minimizing wear and tear on your child from their backpack can help keep them in great shape.

Do you have questions about backpack sizing? Talk to your local chiropractor to have them check your child’s fit!

Peace in Times of Turmoil

This past week has left me feeling overwhelmed by the media and the level of violence that is becoming all too common. As a result, I have turned off the news. I have minimized my time on social media. I have worked to open my heart and spend time with people who help me remember that there is light in the world- and that this light can start with me.

With the fear and turmoil everywhere we look… This week I wanted to share some thoughts on finding peace within ourselves and being the light and the change that can move our world in a positive way.

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5 Steps Toward Peace in Troubled Times

  1. Spend time each day in gratitude. It may seem over simple, but when we switch our focus to gratitude, there is a shift in consciousness that is very soothing. Try this simple exercise: Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably. Breathe into the quiet and the space for awhile. When you feel centered in yourself, pick up a journal and write the word Gratitude as a title. Below this, write a minimum of 3 things which you are grateful for. Some days, it can be hard to find 3 things. They don’t have to be complex or in depth. For example: I am grateful that my cat spent some time in my lap this morning. Something simple like this is still a shift toward peace.
  2. Pay it Forward. When you are stressed and the world seems like it is spinning out of control, it can be difficult to remember how much you truly have. You also never know whose world/day you can change by doing something simple like paying for their coffee, helping them carry groceries, or simply smiling. Helping others without expecting anything in return is an amazing gift.
  3. Unplug from Media for the Weekend. It sounds simple, but stopping the onslaught from the latest News Cycle, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat…. the list goes on… Can help you to reset and focus on local change. Better yet, go into nature. Spend some time in the woods or the water and reconnect with yourself. When you do choose to turn the phone back on and take a glimpse at the latest headlines, you will be a bit more prepared.
  4. Help Someone Locally. Find a way to give back to your community. To paraphrase a performer I saw this weekend, Broon,  we have to invest in the community that we want to surround ourselves with. When your voice may feel lost, politically, vote with your dollar. Support the local farmers that produce food to nourish your body. Shop small for your family gifts. Volunteer in community arts or read to children. Whatever you love- Get involved. One voice can make a difference. Know That Your Voice For Peace Counts. Sometimes we feel so small. Sometimes we get lost in the shuffle. But when you can stand tall, smile, and help your neighbor- you are changing the world. Effect change at the local level and it will echo out.
  5. Meditate. Spend time with your mind at rest. Recognize that you do not need to have all the answers. Focus on your breath and peace is surely right behind. There are so many tools for meditation at your fingertips. Find one that works for you and start a regular practice.

Love comes from within each of us.

Don’t let your light be dimmed or go out.

Stand tall in your peace.

Air Quality and Exercise

With this summer’s forest fires in full swing, Seattle has been covered in a haze of smoke for the past week. Air quality has been poor and traffic is congested. Athletes are attempting to continue to stay in shape while battling the smokey haze.

Below, I will discuss some ideas to help stay safe while continuing to exercise. However, IF YOU HAVE ANY LUNG OR CARDIOVASCULAR CONDITIONS, please speak with your Primary Care Physician before exercising to ensure that you are not putting yourself in danger.

Assess Air Quality Prior to Exercise

Check out AirNow.Gov to learn about the current recommendations regarding air quality. For example, today’s rating in Seattle is “Unsafe for Sensitive Groups”. This means that those with any lung or cardiovascular issues should remain inside as should children and older adults who are more sensitive to particulate in the air.

Make sure that you understand what your own personal status is:

Do you have asthma or another respiratory condition?

Are you sensitive to smoke?

Have you been short of breath or have your sinuses been draining?

If you answered “yes ” to any of these, please consult your PCP prior to engaging in exercise.

By looking at the map, you may want to choose to drive to an area that has a better air rating before engaging in outdoor exercise.

Exercise Intelligently

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Once you have determined that you are “OK” to exercise and have found an adequate location, listen to your body.

  • Take frequent breaks
  • Exercise at a lower intensity to take a load off your respiratory system
  • Consider using a sinus rinse to help keep your nasal passages clear
  • If you feel prematurely out of breath or as though you are working harder than normal… Make it a Gym Day and exercise in a controlled environment. (You may also consider being evaluated by your PCP)

Hopefully the winds will pick up off the Pacific and the smoke will clear- but until then stay safe and keep your personal health in mind when spending time outside. Taking a day off training is better than compromising your health.

***The information contained in the blog above is not intended as healthcare advice and is provided for general information purposes***

 

No Pain, No Gain- An Outdated Fitness Concept

No Pain, No Gain

I remember being in high school sports and repeatedly hearing people laugh and say, “No pain, no gain” as we pushed ourselves to make gains in the weight room or in the pool. We worked out to exhaustion, more focused on completing the workout or the set in the weight room than on form or perfection. Coaches said things like, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” We got strong, sure. We gained speed. We thought we were so cool as we showed off our bruises and iced down our shoulders.

The reality, though, is that we were injuring ourselves. We were building poorly coordinated neural pathways. We were altering our biomechanics and causing overuse injuries.

 

Now that I am years out of that scenario, I often work with athletes, like myself, who are driven to excel and want to improve in their sport. One of the biggest discussions we have is surrounding this concept of “No pain. No gain.”

A workout should build you up, not break you down.

It is important to work out in a way that pushes your capacity, but does not allow for the break down of your mechanics. For example, when I assign rehab exercises in my practice, we always discuss:

  • The goals of the exercise
  • What you should feel when you perform the exercise
  • What are the “fails” of the exercise (ie: what things let you know that you have completed as many exercises as your body can handle)

It all comes down to the neural edge. This is the limit to which the brain can control the exercise and where we can actively create new pathways. Here is where we can safely make gains in our training.

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Beyond rehab, think of it like this… If you are on a run and you have decided that you will run 6 miles today. However, at 4 miles you notice that your left foot is hurting in the arch with some knee pain as well. Do you decide to continue running? -OR-  Do you listen to your body and stop your run at 4 miles? Should you continue to run, you are risking causing damage in your body that may keep you from running later in the week or season. It is important to evaluate (or to be evaluated by a professional) why the pain is present? Are your supporting or stabilizing muscles doing their jobs? Are you wearing appropriate shoes for your feet and the surface you are running on? Do you have proper nutrition?

Running through pain or working out through pain can be extremely detrimental to training, overall. It can result in overuse injuries and in neural patterning that lends itself to future injuries. Instead, it is imperative to train intelligently. Work smart. Get evaluated to be sure that you are making safe gains and discuss your training with a coach and functional movement specialist.

Let’s forget No Pain, No Gain

Let’s shift our focus in training. Let’s teach our athletes, young and old, to listen to their bodies and find their edge.  Let’s lead by example and learn to work out smart- and hard.

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***This blog is intended to provide educational content and is not for diagnostic purposes nor to provide health care advice. Please speak with your health care professional prior to changing your workout routine.***

Same Weight, Different Body- It’s time to ditch the scale and take a broader view of health!

As a Chiropractor, my health is an important part of my practice. I try to “live my brand” and do not recommend things to my clients that I would not be willing to do for myself. That being said, I am incredibly human. I have health challenges. I do not always remember to take my supplements. Sometimes, I eat dessert- in fact, I am writing this in a Starbucks where I am treating myself to a Frappuccino. Recently, thanks to Facebook and my wardrobe, I have come to the realization that my health has drastically changed over the past 1.5-2 years (for the better).

About 2 years ago, I became aware that I was not taking care of myself the way I should be. I have food allergies and sensitivities, and while I had cut quite a bit of them out of my diet, I was desperately clinging on to dairy and rice. At a Standard Process seminar, I made the decision to take my health into my own hands and address how my food sensitivities have impacted me.

2 years ago, I was battling depression, my weight, acne, sleep, and the list could go on. I was also working out regularly, had just finished my first triathlon, working on my spiritual well being, sleeping at least 7.5 hours per night, and getting adjusted regularly. Most people looked at me and called me healthy- but I was far from it.

I was faking it and hoping to make it. When each week ended, I spent the weekends in my pajamas sleeping too much and always tired. I would find myself crying over the smallest things. I was always feeling behind and having panic attacks regularly.

It was time for a change.harmony-1229886_1920

The past 2 years have been a quite a journey. I started by cleaning up my diet further- finally giving up my beloved dairy and rice. Within weeks, I was sleeping more deeply. Within months, my skin was clearer. Soon, my clothes fit better. Slowly, I was climbing out of the hole I had dug myself into during grad school and my first years in practice.

I started to really love who I am again. I started to feel like the fun and upbeat person I pretended to be for years. I scaled my workouts back to yoga, swimming, and weight training to allow my body time to heal and balance without as much repetitive stress. I budgeted time for relaxation and recreational reading.

Then, just over a year ago, my husband and I took a month and a half off to visit Europe and move out to Seattle from our first real home together in the Detroit area. The total reset that this allowed for my emotions was unreal and I truly felt in control of my emotions for the first time since puberty.

All told, this was almost a year long process.

The best part was that even moving across the country, finding a place to live, starting a new practice from scratch, dancing this dream awake, didn’t shake my cool. In the year that we have been in Seattle, I continue to be healthier, I can hike and run again, even completing my first half marathon this past June.

Looking at pictures of myself now, the change in my health really hits home. I look happy. I feel healthy. I am significantly more fit. What’s funny, though, is that pesky scale. You know the one. The bathroom scale. Over these past 2 years, it has not budged more than 5-10 pounds in either direction. In fact, during my most unhealthy years it was both at its highest and lowest weight. As I have worked to recapture my wellness and love my body, I have settled somewhere in between- even though my dress size is smaller.

Here’s the thing. And it is a big thing. Something that took me a long time to learn and something that I continue to learn each day. Health is not any one thing. Some of the people who look the healthiest are not well on the inside. Like me, they battle depression or anxiety.

Health is not merely the absence of disease or pain. Health is the constant pursuit of joy in your body and in your soul. It is ever changing. It is not measured on the scale, nor is it truly quantifiable. “Healthy” me is going to be different from “healthy” you. You can be stick thin or curvy and be healthy or unhealthy. It is important to work with health care providers that are focused on wellness and to build your tribe around you that can support your transformation. Find someone to assess you and listen to you. Health is a discussion.

My story of the past 2 years is in no way unique. But. I hope you were inspired in some way to assess your own health.

Start the conversation.

Take those first steps toward your best self.

Hydration is Key to Performance!

Summer is here as are summer sports! This past weekend I participated in the Ragnar Northwest Passage Race, where I was reminded of the importance of proper hydration when exercising as well as in daily life. IMG_20170716_213251_01

All too often, we forget to stay hydrated, leave the water bottle at home, and find ourselves with a dry mouth or muscle cramps, etc later. This is extremely evident when looking at runners, cyclists, and triathletes who compete in long duration activities. Even slight dehydration can immensely impact performance and recovery.

Exercise performance is impaired when an individual is dehydrated by as little as 2% of body weight. Losses in excess of 5% of body weight can decrease the capacity for work by about 30% (Armstrong et al. 1985; Craig and Cummings 1966; Maughan 1991; Sawka and Pandolf 1990).

As indicated by the above quote, it is possible to determine your level of hydration vs dehydration using your bathroom scale. A best practice is to weigh yourself naked before your workout, then again after. When you compare the numbers, you can see if you were adequately hydrating during your exercise. A discrepancy indicates that you need to increase your fluid intake during the course of your workout.

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Remember, that drinking only when thirsty is not an accurate way to assess hydration. You are already dehydrated when you are thirsty! Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the course of every day is beneficial to overall health and it is best not to be dehydrated when beginning your exercise!

It may also be of benefit to discuss your hydration levels and training practices with your coach, medical doctor, chiropractor, PT, etc and assess your specific needs including electrolyte intake.

While dehydration impacts overall health, many times we first see this as a drop in performance.

According to Human Kinetics, dehydration impacts performance for the following reasons: reduction in blood volume, decreased skin blood flow, decreased sweat rate, decreased heat dissipation, increased core temperature, and increased rate of muscle glycogen use.

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Please speak with your health care provider regarding your individual needs as an athlete, whether you run 5K’s or 100 mile races. Each person’s body has unique needs and this blog is intended for informational purposes only. If you would like to speak with Seed of Life Chiropractic and Wellness, LLC about your health, please make an appointment!

 

The Shoulder: A Delicate Balance

The shoulder is a delicate balance between stability and flexibility. Part of the shoulder complex, the glenohumeral joint, has the largest range of motion in the body. Our shoulders sacrifice their stability for that range of motion.

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The shoulder consists of several joints.

Acromioclavicular Joint

The acromioclavicular joint is a joint between the shoulder blade (scapula) and the collarbone (clavicle). Where these two bones meet is the only physical articulation holding the arm onto the body. On your body, you can feel this joint by placing your left hand on the front of your right shoulder then raising your arm. You should feel the collarbone rock and roll under your fingers. In the image below, it is indicated by the arrow labeled (1).

R anterior shoulder

Glenohumeral Joint

The glenohumeral joint is visualized in the image above, labeled (2).

This joint is what most people think of when they refer to their shoulder. When you think of the proportions, it is almost equivalent to a baseball sitting on a golf tee. The glenohumeral joint provides us with the most range of motion in the shoulder complex.

Scapulothoracic Joint

The scapulothoracic joint is probably the most overlooked part of the shoulder complex. Visualized in the image below, this joint refers to the relationship between the shoulder blade and the rib cage. As the arm is brought away from the side, the shoulder blade has to depress and rotate in order for the glenohumeral joint to have space to move.Posterior Scapulothoracic view

Put it all together…

When these three joints are considered as a whole, they make up the shoulder complex.  The shoulder is an intimate relationship between these joints, mobility in the cervical spine (neck), and balance in over twenty one muscles.

It’s no wonder that injuries to the shoulder are some of the most complicated and frustrating to rehabilitate. It is important to seek out a provider who has experience working with this joint and understands its anatomy well.

Some common injuries associated with the shoulder include:x-ray-1884888_1280

  • Dislocation
  • Multiplanar Instability
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Labral Tears
  • Chronic Tendinitis
  • Impingement Syndrome
  • Biceps Tendon Tears
  • Rotator Cuff Injury
  • etc.

A Delicate Balance

One of the most important messages that I have learned from the shoulder is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure- as cliche as that sounds! By ensuring that your cervical spine, thoracic spine, and the shoulder joint are moving in a balanced and healthy way,  you can prevent many painful shoulder conditions.

Please seek out a healthcare professional such as a Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, Massage Therapist, or Sports Medicine Specialist to evaluate your personal movement patterns for imbalances.