Pack it Light. Wear it Right.

With the return to school upon us, it is a good time to remember some important tips for choosing the right backpack for your children.  Kids think it’s “cool” to strap on their backpacks and head out to school, but if they don’t wear them properly, these important back-to-school accessories can become a pain in the back. Literally – not to mention the neck, head and shoulders.   The BC Chiropractic Association has run a campaign for the past few years on appropriate back-pack use and tips for kids back health.

They’re not moving out, they’re going to school for the day! 

Choose the right backpack, that has two wide, adjustable, padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap. Make sure they only take what they need for the day, and that the weight is distributed evenly. The total weight of the filled pack should be no more than 10-15% of the child’s own body weight. Pack the heaviest objects close to the body and distribute items throughout the different pockets.

Check out this POSTER of 10 tips for a healthy back and the do’s and don’ts of backpack wearing.

Back pain in school age children is not normal, so when there is pain, it is worth having it assessed by a professional.


MOVEMENT is the Key


Good movement is required for proper function of every system in our body, from muscles and joints, to digestion and circulation.

The body is made up of the same parts in everyone. The same bones, the same muscles, the same ligaments, the same organs, nerves and blood vessels. There are some shape and size variations between people, but in general, we are all made the same. Which is how, when we look at someone, we recognize them as a human, and not a dog, a turtle or a tree.

From that basic differntiation, we get to looking at how peopleexample of poor squat technique move these virtually identical collections of bones, muscles and ligaments etc. …The variations we find are on an amazingly wide spectrum.

How can that be?  The answer is that some people are moving in the most efficient, least taxing and least strenuous way possible (which is ideal). Everyone else is moving in a less functional, more inefficient, higher stress- inducing, type of pattern.

These less-than-ideal patterns arise from compensations that we make for lack image comparing normal posture to various common compensationsof mobility or excessive mobility that occurs in other areas, or from a disconnect between our nervous and muscular systems.

How do these changes in ideal mobility, or this disconnection between systems occur?  Through injury.

Injury needs to be defined in this sense. Any undue stress on the body resulting in damage at the micro or macro level.   There comes a point where the damage done is irreparable outside of surgery.  Even with “successful” surgery, the body will have to make compensations.  When this occurs, the role of treatment is minimizing the impact of those compensations.  When injuries are less severe, manual therapy and muscle strengthening protocols can be applied to get the movements back as close as possible to ideal.

How do you know if you have one of these compensations, or less-than-ideal movement patterns?
Pain is a great indicator, but does not always point directly to the cause of the problem.
Have your movement assessed by a trained professional.  They should be able to identify any dysfunctional patterns and advise you on treatment or self-care options.

If a dysfunctional pattern exists, it is an indication that undue stress is being put into our system, and if not corrected, will inevitably lead to pain.

A movement pattern analysis system such as the SFMA can be a remarkable tool for tracking down the underlying cause of movement dysfunctional.

Selective Functional Movement Assessment Logo

Selective Functional Movement Assessment

It is a tool that a trained clinician can use, to track down the underlying problems that are causing you to move inefficiently.

Stay tuned for a further description of the SFMA and how getting your movement checked can lead to less pain and improved performance.

Understanding Muscle Dysfunction

When we decide we want to become stronger, it seems that we have a general understanding of what it’s going to take to get there.  If for example we choose to employ the assistance of a personal trainer and we go in for a session and after some basic testing, it is determined that we can bench press 100 lbs.  Our goal, however, is to press 150 lbs… that’s why we’re doing the personal training.

Is anyone in that situation is going to be disappointed or surprised that after one session of personal training, that 150 lb goal has not been reached…N0! of course not.  It is understood that making changes in a muscles capacity to produce force takes time.  It’s going to take a while.  It’s going to take consistent effort with adequate rest, to increase the size and strength of the muscles, gradually increasing from the 100 lbs, by increments up to 150 lbs over weeks or months.

Something that is less understood is there are other factors that are going to contribute to that muscles ability to strengthen and contract and grow which are not able to be addressed by repetitive, consistent effort alone.  The muscles blood supply, innervation, presence of adhesions or trigger points, or an overly tight antagonist muscles all affect that muscles performance.

Muscles can become injured or dysfunctional in a few key ways:

1) Overt trauma, such as muscle strain or tear.  This is usually a pretty obvious situation involving a large force, an awkward position, an unwelcome “popping” sound might make an appearance, pain, inflammation, bruising, (all that fun stuff) and a significant recovery time.

2) Repetitive Strain; where a lower force is applied to the same tissue over and over and over again.  This also eventually results in pain, inflammation and decreased functional capacity.  Common examples of this type of injury are “Tennis elbow” and Achilles’ Tendonitis.

3) Constant Pressure or Tension.  This is usually associated with a postural strain, or a prolonged isometric contraction.  The tension/pressure/contraction limits blood flow and thus oxygen delivery.  Our muscles NEED oxygen and when they don’t get it, fibrotic tissue gets deposited, shortening the muscles, decreasing their ability to contract and lowering their threshold for pain.

Our bodies repair the damage, after going through some inflammation, with fibrotic tissue, to start.  This carries with it some difficulties, including: those repair muscles developing adhesions with things they shouldn’t, shortened muscles altering posture and muscle activation patterns leading to bad biomechanical habits.  This is muscle dysfunction.

We can carry these muscle dysfunctions with us for years and not have them be a problem.  We are very adept at making reasonable compensations for muscle dysfunctions.  Only after a faulty motor pattern, or  poor biomechanics leads to another repetitive strain injury does it become a problem, or when we decide to try and take our training to the “next level” and things don’t respond the way we expect.

This is where seeking appropriate treatment for those dysfunctional muscles comes in.  Much like training for muscle hypertrophy, all the changes we’re hoping for are not going to happen in one session!

A.R.T.® or Active Release Techniques® is on treatment that I’ve found to work very well at addressing this dysfunction, but there are lots of effective techniques out there.

With A.R.T., often there will be some improvement after one treatment.  Typically 3 to 5 sessions are required to effectively address an issue.  So when you go in for a treatment and you can lift your arm to shoulder height, but your goal is to lift it all the way over your head…don’t be disappointed when you can only lift it 3/4 of the way there after 1 session.  Stick with your treatments and don’t set your expectations for yourself too low!  Just because you’ve “ALWAYS” had a bad shoulder since that one accident x number of years ago, for example, doesn’t mean you have to give up on ever throwing a football again!…get it checked out and assessed properly.