Spinal Adjustments Outperform NSAID’s for Back Pain

Spinal Adjustments Outperform NSAID’s for Back Pain

Hello Doc,

Recently we posted this article on Facebook and it received such overwhelming feedback that I wanted to make sure you saw it.

Its powerful stuff…

SPINE not only recommended spinal manipulation but also found that manipulation is “significantly better than NSAID(s) and clinically superior to placebo.”

A top-tier research publication underwent a controlled, blinded, randomized controlled trial which showed manipulation/adjustments to be significantly better than NSAID’s for back pain. This is the type of research EVERY Chiropractor should know about.

Learn more and get the direct citation HERE.

Also, this week I was fortunate to be featured by YogiApproved.com for an article on “Six Restorative Yoga Poses to Help Heal Back Pain”.  See the article here.

Low Back Pain – When is it DANGEROUS to Wait?

Low back pain (LBP) typically results from relatively “benign” causes, meaning it’s usually safe to wait and try conservative / non-emergency care first. However, there are a handful of times when prompt medical emergency management is appropriate, and it’s important that everyone is aware of these uncommon but dangerous and sometimes deadly causes of LBP, hence the purpose of this article.
“Red flags” trace back to the 1980s and 1990s, so this is not a “new” topic. In fact, guidelines for the care of LBP that have been published around the world ALL commonly state the anyone exhibiting these “red flags” needs to be promptly diagnosed and referred for emergent care. The common conditions cited in these guidelines include (but are not limited to): 1) Cancer, 2) Cauda equine syndrome, 3) Infection,  4) Fracture. The patient’s history can sometimes uncover suspicion of these four conditions BETTER than a routine physical examination, though a definitive diagnosis is usually made only after special diagnostic tests have been completed including (but not limited to) imaging (x-ray, MRI, CT, PET scans), blood tests, bone scans, and more.1) Cancer: a) Past history of cancer. b) Unexplained weight loss (>10 kg within 6 months). c) Age over 50 or under age 18. d) Failure to respond to usual care (therapy). e) Pain that persists for four to six weeks. f) Night pain or pain at rest.

2) Infection: a) Persistent fever (>100.4º F). b) Current/recent URI (upper respiratory tract infection like pneumonia) or UTI (urinary tract or kidney infection). b) History of intravenous drug abuse. c) Severe back pain. d) Lumbar spine surgery within the past year. e) Recent bacterial infection (cellulitis or persistent wound – e.g., a decubitus ulcer or “pressure sore” in the low back region). f) Immunocompromised states such as those caused by systemic corticosteroids, organ transplant medications, diabetes mellitus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

3) Cauda Equina Syndrome: a) Urinary incontinence or retention. b) Saddle anesthesia. c) Anal sphincter tone decrease or fecal incontinence. d) Bilateral lower extremity weakness or numbness. e) Progressive neurologic deficit or loss – major muscle weakness or sensory deficit.

4) Fracture: a) Prolonged corticosteroid use. b) Age >70. c) History of Osteoporosis (poor bone density). d) Mild trauma over age 50. e) Major trauma at any age (such as a fall).

Another red flag is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurism. Signs include: a) Abdominal pulsations. b) Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerotic vascular disease). c) Pain at rest or night time pain. d) Age >60.

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for back pain, we would be honored to render our services.

Who Else Wants to Live to Be 100 Years Old?

“Anything you could ever want or be, you already have and are.”
~ David Russell

Cover Story

Starting in 1913, researchers followed the health of 855 people. What did the ten who made it to 100 years old have in common and what does it mean for you?

There is an old saying that goes something like this: Youth is wasted on the young.

For many people, this is true.  Whether this is true or not for you is unimportant, but here is something that is important…

No matter how old you are now or how long you are going to live, life is short and it goes by in the blink of an eye.

Whatever age you are right now, don’t you want to live as many healthy years into the future as you can?

Sadly, many people think there is nothing they can do to make themselves healthier and live longer.  It is common to believe…

“It’s All In Your Genes.”

Sure.  Genes do play some role regarding the circumstances of your life. For example, not everyone is going to be 7 feet tall (>2m) and play basketball for an NBA team. Not everyone is going to be exceptionally healthy and live to be 100 years old even if they eat junk food and smoke like a chimney.  But there is something you can control and that’s living up to your genetic potential.

Listen, it makes no difference to you if someone else’s genetic potential is better or worse than yours. The only thing that matters is YOUR genetic potential and how you maximize it.

Here is something else you should know:  Most people think that because they did unhealthy things when they were younger — like eat a lot of junk food or smoke — that it is too late for them now.  The damage is done, so to speak.

While in some instances this may be true, in many cases, the body has an amazing ability to recover and become healthy even after decades of abuse. We’ll talk about this more in a moment, but first, let’s see if living to age 100 is all in the genes…

Over the past 50 years, the University Gothenburg has hosted one of the world’s first prospective study on aging. The participants included 855 Gothenburg men born who were all born in 1913.

The first surveys were conducted in 1963 and continued on until the final survey was conducted with the ten surviving participants in 2013.

A total of 27% (232) of the original group lived to the age of 80 and 13% (111) live to 90.  All in all, 1.1% of the subjects made it to their 100th birthday.

According to the study, 42% of deaths after the age of 80 were due to cardiovascular disease, 20% to infectious diseases, 8% to stroke, 8% to cancer, 6% to pneumonia, and 16% to other causes.

A total of 23% of the over-80 group were diagnosed with some type of dementia.

The study showed that it helped the longevity of the participants if they paid high rent or owned a house by age 50, had a high aerobic capacity on a biking test at age 54, and had a mother who lived a long time.

According to lead researcher Dr. Lars Wilhelmsen, while their mother’s longevity appears to indicate that genetic factors played a strong role in helping these men live longer lives, other factors that are indicative of a healthy lifestyle may be more important for living a long time.

For example, among the longest lived men in the study, none were smokers and all of them were slim and had good posture.

The fact they were non-smokers isn’t surprising but…

What About Being Slim and Having Good Posture?

Sure, the health benefits of being slim are also pretty obvious.  Numerous studies have focused on weight control and calorie-restricted diets and their benefits.

But what does good posture have to do with it?

Chiropractors have known the benefits of having good posture for well over 100 years.  Even in the early 1900s, doctors of chiropractic believed that spinal structure is directly related to overall health – not just back pain.

Now, the results of this study do not say… or prove… chiropractic care can make you live longer,  but it does raise some very interesting questions.

If good posture is an important factor for good health and living longer, and chiropractic helps you achieve good posture, does chiropractic care improve overall health and help you live longer?

For now, you will have to make your own decision about that.  Hopefully more studies will be performed to give us more definitive answers about all of this.

Now for Some Great News About Quitting Smoking…

The chances of a smoker dying form cardiovascular disease are double that of someone who has never smoked.  However, if a smoker kicks their habit, their risk for a heart attack or stroke will decrease over time and while it may never be as low as a never-smoker’s risk, it can get close if given enough years.  Even those who quit smoking after age 60 will still experience a drop in cardiovascular risk over time.

In a recent study, researchers attempted to calculate the number of years by which smoking accelerates death from heart disease.  They found that the age of smokers who die from cardiovascular disease is, on average, five and a half years younger than people who have never smoked in their lives.  By contrast, the age of former smokers drops to just over two years younger than life-long non-smokers.

Lead researcher Dr. Hermann Brenner writes, “Therefore, it is never too late to stop smoking.  Even people in the highest age group still gain considerable health benefits from it… Many heart attacks and strokes, with all of their serious consequences, could be prevented this way.”

Clearly, your body has incredible recovery and recuperative powers.  It’s amazing how many people have lived long, healthy lives after years of poor diet, smoking, and even drug abuse.  There is an old saying that goes something like this:  The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is today. 

The same applies for your health.  Start today.

Low Back Pain: An Ice Pack or the Hot Tub?

Many patients perform some self-care when they first hurt their lower back, hoping this will keep them out of a doctor’s office. While home remedies can sometimes make the pain go away, sometimes they don’t. It just depends on what you try. When the back is first hurt, it’s often a sprain/strain type of injury with accompanying muscle spasm. When a nerve in the low back gets pinched or irritated, the body will protect the delicate nerves by keeping you from moving and risking further nerve injury. The easiest way for the body to do this is to cause the back muscles to spasm in the injured area.

Muscle pain can be quite severe and heat can sometimes soothe muscle pain. For this reason, many patients take to the heating pad or to the hot tub to try and get some relief. This should be avoided in an acute injury because inflammation is present. With inflammation, there is increased heat and the additional heat you provide is like adding gasoline to a fire. The results are usually not good.

A better choice with an acute injury is to ice the area, but this also needs to be done with some caution. The simplest ice pack is ice cubes placed in a plastic bag. While effective, you can cause a frostbite injury if you leave the pack on for too long. When you first ice the area, you will go through several phases before some pain relief is achieved. At first, the pack will feel cold. The next phase is a burning sensation and the ice will almost feel hot. This is followed by an aching or throbbing sensation. Just before the area is numbed, a very sharp pain will be experienced followed by the relief you desire. It can take between five to ten minutes to go through all of the phases. Once numbness is achieved, the pack should be removed. You should most definitely not fall asleep while the pack is on.

If this simple procedure does not solve the problem, it’s best to get your spine checked by a doctor of chiropractic.


April 1, 2008 by

10 Easy Ways to Kick-Start Your Metabolism Every Morning

Your metabolism is dependent on everything from the types of foods you eat to the amount of sleep that you get each night. Thanks to genetics, some people have “speedier” metabolisms than others. However, there are some scientifically backed things you can do to make yours work a little more quickly. And, if you make these habits a part of your morning routine, chances are it will help to naturally boost your calorie burn all day long.




10 Things Most People Don’t Know About Chiropractic

1. Pain is the last symptom of dysfunction. A patient’s back is often restricted or unstable for months or years before it presents as a problem and they show up in a chiropractor’s office. In addition, the absence of pain is not health. While medication may be needed, if you take a pill and the pain goes away, the dysfunction that caused it still persists. Muscle, ligament and joint injuries often occur as a result of long-term biomechanical dysfunction, sometimes from past injuries, making the area more susceptible to future injury.

2. Athletes use chiropractors to stay well and perform better, not just for the occasional injury.

Athletes choose chiropractors because we are movement specialists. Chiropractors were spotted all over the Olympic coverage last year, and top athletes such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Tom Brady, Evander Holyfield, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all been proud patients of chiropractors. These days it’s far more common than not for major athletes and sports teams to keep chiropractors nearby to help prevent injuries, speed injury recovery, improve balance and coordination, and give them a greater competitive edge.

3. The body does not perform as a cluster of separate mechanisms, but rather a cascade of events that all starts with proper control by the nervous system.

The nerves that travel through and control every function of your body originate at the spinal cord and their transmission may be disrupted if the joints of the surrounding spinal column are not moving properly. This disruption in biomechanical integrity combined with altered physiological function is what chiropractors call a subluxation. Below is a chart that illustrates the relationship of the spinal nerves exiting the vertebra branching off to the various organ systems. You can see why it is not uncommon for a chiropractor to treat a patient with mid-back pain who also suffers from irritable bowel system, a patient with a subluxated sacrum who has been unsuccessfully trying to become pregnant, or a patient with an upper back fixation and acid reflux.


4. Doctors don’t do the healing.

Sorry to disappoint you, but a chiropractor will never fix your back. What we are able to do is restore proper motion in the joints, which relieves tension on the nerves and muscles and allows your body to do the healing that it is inherently made to do. As chiropractors, we believe that the body is a perfect organism in its natural state, and all disease comes from a disruption in the body’s proper transmission of signals by the nerves which affects its ability to heal and to defend against disease-causing agents. We never treat disease. We assess to find which spinal levels are causing the disfunction, and we adjust it to restore proper nerve flow so the nervous system may work as efficiently and effectively as possible.

5. Chiropractic is for all ages. Many seniors aren’t aware of the benefits of chiropractic care which can help them not only with pain relief, but also increase range of motion, balance and coordination, and decrease joint degeneration. There’s no patient too young for chiropractic either! Chiropractors check infants moments after birth for misalignments of the upper vertebrae that may occur as a result of the birth process. In addition to supporting overall health and well-being, parents also take their children to chiropractors to encourage healthy brain and nervous system development, to assist with colic, asthma, allergies, bed-wetting and sleeping problems, and to assist with behavioral disorders.

6. We know about more than your backbone! This surprises many people who had no idea that chiropractors give advice on nutrition, fitness, ergonomics and lifestyle, screen for conditions unrelated to the musculoskeletal system and refer out to other practitioners when necessary. Chiropractors are also able to complete specialties in other areas such as pediatrics, sports rehabilitation, neurology, clinical nutrition, and addictions and compulsive disorders.

Other than particular specialties and the differences in learning to adjust and learning to prescribe medication, our training hours are not dissimilar from that of medical doctor. The following are the classroom hours for basic science requirements compiled and averaged following a review of curricula of 18 chiropractic schools and 22 medical schools.


7. Successful chiropractic patients accept responsibility. When somebody says that they tried chiropractic and it didn’t help, I cringe and get the feeling that they really missed the boat. Of course, there are cases with complicating factors, but I have heard this from people with straightforward chiropractic problems when it is very clear what has happened here. In most cases, one doesn’t acquire back pain over night, and it’s not going to go away over night. If a weak core from years of sitting at your desk is to blame for the additional stress on your joints, I would expect an adjustment to provide relief, but once the condition is no longer exacerbated, I would most definitely prescribe some exercises for you to do at home. I might also suggest we evaluate your nutrition if I suspect an inflammatory diet may be wiring you for pain.  Sure, I’m always happy to adjust someone, but if you’ve been given homework and you don’t do it, remember that this has to be a team effort!

8. Chiropractic may help you get sick less. Studies have indicated that adjustments consistently reduce the production of pro-inflammatory mediators associated with tissue damage and pain, and may also enhance the production of immunoregulatory complexes important for healthy immune system defense. As far back as the deadly flu pandemic of 1917-1918, chiropractors noticed that their patients seemed to have fewer fatalities than among the general population and were able to publish their work in an osteopathic journal since no scholarly journals were accepting chiropractic data. The estimated death rate among patients of conventional medical care in the U.S. was estimated at 5 to 6 percent while the fatality rate among influenza cases receiving spinal adjustments was estimated at 0.25%.

9. “I heard I’ll have to go forever” is a myth. You may want to go to your chiropractor forever once you’ve started because you didn’t realize how great getting adjusted is, but your doctor won’t expect you to come for continuous care without symptoms. Generally, if you come in with pain, once you’ve been treated for your initial complaint, you’ll be scheduled for a few more appointments to make sure proper motion is being maintained, then it will be recommended you return occasionally to be checked just like you would go to the dentist to get checked for tartar buildup and cavities. Of course, many people still choose to see their chiropractor weekly or monthly for wellness or maintenance care.

10. Adjustments don’t hurt. There is no bone snapping or warrior-style pulling heads off spinal columns! The neck adjustment some chiropractors use causes anticipation for many new patients, but is actually much more gentle than they imagined, and involves a quick, direct thrust to a specific spinal bone. The sound an adjustment makes is called a cavitation and is only space being created within the joint causing gasses to be released from the joint capsule, which creates the popping or cracking noise. Also, chiropractic adjustments will not wear out your joints, as some imagine because they have been warned not to “crack their knuckles” for this reason in the past. Adjustments, unlike “knuckle cracking” or having your friend stomp on you while you lay on the carpet, are applied specifically to improve the motion of your joints and limit the small dysfunctions that over time can lead to arthritis. Most people after an adjustment describe the feeling as being “lighter”, having greater ease in moving the body, and being able to stand up taller.




Smoking – How Does it Relate to Chiropractic?


When patients seek chiropractic care, the focus is on improving ALL aspects of health, not just the presenting complaint of back or neck pain. The “Triangle of Health” is represented by an equilateral triangle where one side represents structure (something that chiropractic SPECIFICALLY manages), chemical (where we look closely at diet and nutrition), and emotional (which includes anxiety, depression, and/or poor coping strategies). If ANY one side of the triangle gets out of balance, it directly affects the other two sides. The goal is to find balance in this triangle of health. So, how does smoking fit into this picture? Let’s take a look!

Tobacco smoking is currently THE LARGEST cause of preventable deaths in the world, as smokers can expect to live seven-to-ten years less and have a three-times greater chance of a premature death than non-smokers, not to mention the poor quality of life with all the co-morbid conditions associated with smoking like COPD, emphysema, asthma, heart disease, and many more! Many body systems are adversely affected by smoking, and the musculoskeletal system is no exception. Most conscientious surgeons will refuse to perform spine surgical fusions on smokers since the failure rate increases significantly (up to 20%) when compared with non-smokers. It has also been reported that smoking is associated with numerous post-surgical complications and associated costs.

There are many reasons why smoking “stinks” including direct toxic effects of nicotine on the cells that make and break down bone, indirect actions on hormones (adrenal and sex hormones especially), problems with calcium absorption, potential reductions in blood vessel oxygen supply, and more! Smoking may also hasten the onset or aggravate the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and back pain. What about the muscles and tendons? As chiropractors, we treat MANY sprains and strains of the spine and extremities, and negative side effects from smoking have been found in these types of injuries as well. For example, in rotator cuff (RC) tendonitis of the shoulder, experts note the following: interference with tendon and ligament healing; open and arthroscopic RC repairs found larger tears in those in heavy smokers and smaller tears in those that smoked less (a dose-dependent relationship); a longer the history of heavy smoking increases an individual’s risk of developing a rotator cuff tear AND the degree of injury (a time-dose relationship); smokers also had a 7.5 times higher risk of biceps tendon tears; a greater risk of non-union of fractures and poor union of joint replacements; a reduced blood supply to healing tissues; increased chances for infection due to poor blood supply plus decreased overall immune response; and increased bone death (osteonecrosis) risk.

Not only does smoking increase the occurrence of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and coronary heart disease, but it also causes MANY conditions that interfere with longevity, and more importantly, quality of life!

Whiplash – Where is the Pain Coming From?

Whiplash is a slang term for an injury to the neck that’s typically associated with a motor vehicle collision (MVC). A better term for “whiplash” is “whiplash associated disorder” (WAD) as it includes specific history and exam findings. There are usually two phases to an MVC: 1) an acceleration phase that is followed by 2) a deceleration phase. Injury can arise during either phase depending on the following: 1) The direction or angle of the collision (head-on, rear-end, T-bone, etc.); 2) The size of the bullet vs. target vehicle; 3) The speed the vehicles are traveling; 4) The size of the injured person’s neck (short/stocky vs. long/thin), 5) Head rotation at impact; 6) Position of the headrest (ideally ≤1 inch from the back of the head and raised up to bottom of the ears); 7) The angle and “springiness” of the seatback; 8) Seat belt use and position; 9) Collision anticipation, 10) Condition of the road (dry vs. wet/slippery), and more!

Anatomically, injury can occur to muscles and/or their tendon attachments, the ligaments that firmly hold bone to bone, the fascia (or the covering of the muscles), the bones, the joints, the skin, the nerves, and/or blood vessels. It all boils down to the ten or more factors listed above, and as discussed in last month’s topic on PTSD, depending on whether concussion occurs and how well the injured person reacts or copes with the injury (the psychosocial part). Obviously, A LOT of factors drive the outcome of a whiplash injury!

One of the more vulnerable parts of the neck that is frequently injured are the small facet joints and/or their coverings (called joint capsules). This is referred to as a WAD II injury. Picture a vertebrae as a bony tripod with one leg being big and wide representing the vertebral body and shock absorbing disk. This large leg is the main weight-bearing part of the tripod supporting up to 80% of the weight. The other two legs represent the facet joints that lie in the back of the vertebrae that open and close as we look down (opens) and look up (closes). When we turn our head, the movement primarily occurs in the first two vertebrae high up in the neck. Injury here most commonly occurs when the head twists or rotates, which can result from either the angle the chest portion of the seat belt lays against and/or if the head is rotated upon impact, such as looking in the rear view mirror. In other words, it’s probable that head rotation occurs in MOST motor vehicle collisions due to the seat belt’s angled position as it crosses the chest. When this twisting / rotation movement of the head occurs suddenly, it can result in brain injury or concussion, as studies show that delicate axons and nerve fibers can literally twist and tear due to this rotational component of the injury. Also, it’s WELL ESTABLISHED that the head DOES NOT have to hit anything to cause a concussion injury, as simply the force of the brain hitting the inside walls of the skull is enough to do this!

Another slightly less common WAD injury involves the pinching of the nerve root as it exits the spine (referred to as a WAD III injury). Think of the nerves as wires between a switch and a light, each having a specific area that they “run” (innervate). For example, if tingling/numbness occurs in the thumb and index finger, it can mean the C6 nerve could be interfered with at some point in between the spine and the fingers. We also test specific muscles for weakness associated with each individual nerve to identify the main culprit! When a nerve gets pinched, sensory and/or motor deficits can occur, which is validated by the neurological examination. The disk is basically like a “jelly donut” where the jelly is located in the central part of the disk and held in place by a tough fibroelastic tissue (called the annulus fibrosis). When this “jelly-like” substance (called nucleus pulposis) breaks through the tough, outer “annulus” and pushes against the nerve, loss of sensation and/or specific muscle weakness can occur. As chiropractors, we will carefully examine you and render many highly effective treatment methods!

February 10, 2015 by

Low Back Pain: What Are Your Treatment Goals?

Low back pain (LBP) has been a challenge to treat for centuries and evidence exists that back pain has been a concern since the origins of man. Chiropractic offers one of the most patient satisfying and fastest treatment approaches available. But, when you go to a chiropractor, there seems to be a lot of different approaches utilized from doctor to doctor. Is there any evidence that suggests one approach is favored over another? How are the patient’s goals addressed?

Let’s look at what chiropractors actually do. Sure, we manipulate the spine and other joints in the upper and lower limbs using a variety of techniques, which seems to be the “brand” of chiropractic. This is good as joint manipulation has consistently been reported to be safe, effective, and with few side effects. Since this is the “staple” of chiropractic, it’s safe to say that regardless of our preferred or chosen technique, obtaining a good result is highly likely.

But, chiropractic includes SO MUCH MORE than just joint manipulation! For example, we focus on the whole person, not just their isolated issue or complaint. Using low back pain as our example, a “typical” evaluation includes a detailed history of the patient’s general health, past history, illness history, family history, personal habits including sleep quality, exercise habits, dietary issues, quality of life measurements and a review of systems. By gathering this information, we can identify areas that may be directly related to low back pain care, indirectly related, or possibly not related at all, but interferes with the person’s quality of life which, in turn, increases LBP. It’s really difficult to separate our low back from the rest of our body.

For example, if a person has plantar fascitis, a heel spur, an ingrown toe nail, diabetic neuropathy in their feet, pes planus or flat feet, an unstable ankle from multiple sprains, knee or hip problems, the gait pattern or, the way a person walks will be affected and the “domino effect” can trickle up to change the low back/pelvic function — resulting in low back pain! Proper management must address all of the issues that are affecting the patient’s gait if long-term success in low back pain management is expected, rather that just putting a “band aid” on the problem.

Let’s talk about what treatment goals we like to address when we treat our low back pain patient population. The most obvious first goal is pain cessation or getting rid of pain! Since this is what usually drives the patient into our office, patient satisfaction with the care received will not be significant unless the pain is managed. This is achieved through advice, reassurance and training. We often recommend ice (vs. heat) aimed at reducing inflammation, activity modification (teaching proper bending, lifting, pulling, and pushing techniques) and gentle stretching exercises when LBP is present in this acute stage.

Once the pain becomes more manageable and activities become less limited, the second goal is structural restoration. This usually includes managing the flat foot possibly with foot orthotics, a short leg with a heel lift, sole lift or combination, an unstable ankle, knee or hip with exercise often emphasizing balance challenge exercises, and sometimes an orthotic that can be as simple as an elastic wrap to a more elaborate brace. This goal also includes “functional restoration” or transitioning the patient back into real life activities they may be afraid to try such as work, golf, gardening, walking or running, etc.

The third goal is prevention oriented. This may include nutrition (including vitamin/mineral recommendations), weight management (though this is also part of the 2nd goal), exercises (aerobic, stabilization, balance, stretch), and stress management (yoga, lifestyle coaching, etc.). We treat ALL of you, not just your parts!

June 30, 2012 by

The Prevalence of Back Pain in School Kids Who Use Backpacks


While back pain is a known and widely-studied issue in adults, its prevalence in school-aged children has received comparatively little scientific attention. Elementary, middle, and high school students must often carry backpacks that weigh enough to cause chronic back pain, poor posture, and even decreased lung volume. Recently, several studies reveal the truths behind childhood back pain and ways to mitigate it.

Are Backpacks Too Heavy for Kids?
Recent research supports that children carrying backpack loads of more than ten percent of their bodyweight have a greater risk of developing back pain and related issues. An international study found that an alarmingly large proportion of school-aged children in Australia, France, Italy, and the United States regularly carried backpacks weighing more than the ten percent threshold.

In another study involving a sample of 1540 metropolitan school-aged children, over a third of the children surveyed reported back pain. In addition to carrying heavy backpacks, female students and those diagnosed with scoliosis had a greater association with back pain. Children with access to lockers reported less pain.

The number of straps on the backpack had little impact on the respondents’ answers. Children also reported limited physical activity due to back pain, and some took medication to relieve the pain.

Girls who carried purses in addition to wearing a backpack reported significantly greater back pain. Adolescents with back pain spent more time watching television than their peers. Over 80 percent of those surveyed believed that carrying a heavy backpack caused their back pain.

Proper Backpack Carrying Techniques
The studies revealed several factors that may help reduce back pain in school-aged children. The best way to prevent back pain is to avoid carrying heavy loads.

Children should take advantage of locker breaks and only carry items necessary for a couple of classes at a time. When lifting a backpack, children should crouch down and bend their knees rather than curve the spine.

While not conclusive, research also supports that carrying the weight differently, e.g., by hand rather than by backpack, may help prevent or reduce back pain. The American Occupational Therapy Association and the American Chiropractic Association offer these additional safe backpack etiquette tips:

Children should avoid carrying over 10 percent of their bodyweight in their backpack. For example, an 8th-grader weighing 120 pounds should carry no more than 12 pounds.
Place the heaviest objects at the back of the pack.
Make sure the items fit as snugly as possible to minimize back pain due to shifting weight.
Adjust the shoulder straps so they fit snugly over your child’s shoulders and the backpack doesn’t drag your child backward. The bottom of the pack should be less than four inches below your child’s waist.
Children should avoid carrying backpacks slung over one shoulder, as it can cause spinal pain and general discomfort.
Encourage your child to carry only necessary items in their backpack. Additional items can be carried in hand.
Look for backpacks with helpful features such as multiple compartments for even weight distribution, padded straps to protect the shoulders and neck, and waist belt.
If your child’s school allows, consider a rollerpack, which rolls across the floor like a suitcase.
If problems continue, talk to your child’s teacher or principal about implementing paperback textbooks, lighter materials, or digital versions.

Chiropractic Care Can Help
If your child continues to experience back pain, contact your local chiropractor. Chiropractic care benefits many adults with spinal discomfort, and licensed practitioners can provide tailored treatments for children.

Chiropractors can also recommend safe exercises to improve back strength, and additional advice on proper nutrition to build strong bones and joints, healthy posture, and more. If your child is experiencing back pain from carrying a backpack, gives us a call. We’re here to help!

Last Updated on 23 March 2015