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Protect Your Back During Fall Yard Clean Up

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Leaves are falling this time of year and it’s time to block off your weekend for fall yard clean up. Before you tackle the daunting task of raking and bagging all those leaves, read these helpful, common sense tips to help prevent potential back aches and pains.

Warm Up and Stretch: Raking leaves is considered exercise and like any pre-workout regimen you need to warm up your cold muscles to prevent injury and strains. Jogging in place for a few minutes will get your heart rate up and blood flowing to all your muscle groups. Stretch your back muscles by bending forward to touch your toes. Another important stretch is to squat into deep knee bends without twisting at the waist. Don’t forget to stretch your shoulders and arms. Hold each stretch for 8 seconds, release and repeat at least 2 times.

Choose Your Rake: The best rake to use will be one that allows you to reach leaves a short distance away from your feet without having to bend or twist. Rakes that are too tall or too short will force you to contort your body and cause muscle strain and pain. A new rake is worth the investment and can last for years.

Maintain Good Form: Don’t hunch over the rake. Proper position for raking will require you to keep your legs slightly bent, to keep your weight centered and to reach with your arms and not your back. While raking do not keep your feet planted in one position. Pivot your feet in the direction you are raking. While bagging the leaves be sure to squat and use your knees instead of bending over at the waist.

Take Breaks: Raking requires a series of repetitive motions which exhaust muscles. You should focus on switching your lead arm throughout your leaf raking session. For example, rake with your right arm forward for 10 minutes and then switch to your left arm for 10 minutes. Take stretching breaks often and drink lots of water!

Recover: After the work is done, be sure to stretch again. If you feel discomfort use ice to soothe the muscles.

Dr. Rita Cummings, at Tamarac Wellness Center, treats back pain in patients of all ages. Call (303) 731-5723 to schedule your initial consultation.

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“Back” to School: Backpacks 101

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Back to School means Backpack season. Whether you have a 1st grader proudly wearing his new Star Wars backpack or a college student schlepping the same backpack since high school, we should all be aware of the issues and pain that backpacks can cause at any age.
Applying a little common sense and choosing the right backpack can make a big difference in comfort and help prevent injuries. Here are some helpful tips:

One Size Does NOT Fit All!
Choose the smallest possible backpack that will meet all your needs. Paying a little extra for these features will pay off in the long run. Choose a backpack made with adjustable padded shoulder straps at least 2 inches wide. The backpack should be made with lightweight but durable material and it should include a padded back. Choose a backpack with hip straps or waist belts that when fastened, will redistribute the weight from the shoulders and back to the pelvis.
Also, consider a rolling backpack which will allow your child to pull their bag instead of carrying it. This solution allows for children to carry much heavier loads. Just be sure that they can still safely and effectively carry the backpack up the stairs or on and off the bus.

Lighten The Load!
Backpacks allow individuals to carry a heavy load and distribute the weight across the back and shoulder muscles. Overloading backpacks can strain these muscles over a period of time. The natural curves in the middle and lower back will be distorted which causes irritation to the spine joints. More obvious effects of carrying an overloaded backpack include the rounding of the shoulders. This forward-leaning posture can reduce balance and make children more likely to trip and fall. If you notice your child walking with rounded, hunched over shoulders, you should adjust the backpack and eliminate any excess weight. Try to limit the weight of the backpack to approximately 10% of the child’s body weight. If your child complains about the weight, make it lighter! Here are some tips to teach your children the proper and safe way to wear a backpack:
1. Load the backpack with the heaviest objects on the bottom.
2. Wear it on your back with BOTH shoulder straps on.
3. Adjust the straps as follows: Adjust the straps to fit the backpack snugly to your body, holding the bottom of the backpack 2 inches above the waist and keeping the top just below the base of the skull
4. Do not carry the backpack low near the buttocks

Be Proactive!
There are simple ways we can help to prevent any long-term back problems in our children while at the same time making their day-to-day routine more comfortable:
Listen to your children when they complain that their backpack is too heavy.
Remind them to use both shoulder straps if they are only using one and trying to look “cool”.
Help them clean out their backpacks and determine if they are carrying books or other objects unnecessarily.
Offer to take them shopping for a new backpack or a rolling backpack that will work better for them.

Dr. Rita Cummings, at Tamarac Wellness Center, treats back pain in patients of all ages. Call (303) 731-5723 to schedule your initial consultation.

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