A new kind of back pain

"Oh, my aching back" is as old and common a complaint as there is. Almost no one is exempt. All that day-to-day lifting, standing, carrying and working is enough to give anyone a backache. Now our backs are facing a new kind of menace called the backpack. My practice is beset with people everyday that have injured their backs carry heavy backpacks or purses.

A study released in 1998 by the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that children ages 14 and up were at the greatest risk of back injury and possible permanent damage due to heavy backpacks. They sited the average middle school child weighing eighty pounds carried anywhere from 20-40 pounds of weight on their back.

Women too are carrying larger and heavier loads. A purse used to be a small bag, maybe 8 x 10 inches carried in one hand; the weight one pound max. Today the average women’s purse looks more like a saddle bag or small suitcase with everything from cell phones, daily planners, bottled water, a large cosmetic case, maybe a book – you name it.

Our muscles are designed to carry the weight of our body and what we carry not the bony structure. Large loads carried unevenly not only stress the muscles but put an extra unnatural burden on our skeletal frame.

Women just like the young school age child or college student tend to carry their backpacks or purses strung across one shoulder. The weight not evenly divided across the spine causes shoulder, upper back and neck pain and sometimes headaches. The long-term effects can lead to poor posture and spinal defects especially for the child.

Children still need to go to school and a working woman still needs her larger bag, this is the 21st century. But maybe just maybe we don’t need to carry everything we own around with us and need to teach our children the same by example?

First lighten up the load: then try adding some stretches to relieve your sore tired back. Stretch arms, legs and back in opposite directions from how they have been used or abused.

Yoga postures are wonderful for stretching a sore tired back.

With a strap or belt stretched between your hands raise your arms over your head and bend slowly at the waist- side to side first one direction then the other.

Modified back bends over a bed allowing the head and arms to dangle over the side of the bed will stretch out the upper back and shoulders.

Using a 3 to 5 pound sandbag reach up allowing the sandbag to drop over your head and down your back. Keep the pull evenly divided between arm and upper back muscles.

Take the same sandbag; bend forward from the waist supporting your upper arms on a high table our counter top. Rest the sandbag in the center of the upper middle back.

Lie flat on the floor face down and slowly roll the head backwards. Do not support yourself with your hands until you have rolled backwards as far as you can. Then place your hands out in front of you and push back further. Release slowly.

Remember as you undertake exercises to relieve your back pain, they shouldn’t hurt. Slow deliberate stretches are best.

Till next time, Rebecca