5 Important Back to School Thoughts!
Wow! My kids have been back to school now for almost a month. How time flies. One of my favorite things so far was what my youngest son, Jake, said after his first day of Kindergarten. I asked him how he liked school, and he said, “It was the best day of my LIFE!”. If only we could keep that excitement and love of learning. Some are better at that than others.
In the clinic, back to school for me means seeing some issues with kids directly related to returning to school, as well as returning to sports. There definitely are some things you can look for to catch problems early, along with some things you can avoid early on to limit problems in the future. Here are my top 5 things to look for in your kids.
- Sports Overuse InjuriesUsually with the return of school comes the return of a variety of sports. There are so many sports kids are doing these days, and sometimes they get injured. Injuries are a natural consequence of playing hard and learning new activities. Where we need to be careful is when an injury is consistently there.Injuries can be described as Acute (recently occurring) and Chronic (lasting for a while). Ideally, we want the acute injuries to heal and not become chronic. If you child is having an injury that consistently is there and doesn’t seem to be getting better, you probably want to get it checked out. Muscle soreness from exercise is just fine, but if it is consistent pain in the same spot every time, and there doesn’t seem to be improvement, or it is getting worse, it could indicate a more serious problem.Kids bones, joints, and muscles are maturing and growing, which adds some stress to them and makes them more prone to overuse injuries. Couple that with many kids being in multiple activities, or on competition teams where they are practicing hours each day, and you have recipe for a chronic injury.Injuries in kid (as well as all of us) heal much faster when they are caught and treated early. If you are concerned about your child (or yourself) with a problem that seems to fall into this category, please don’t hesitate to come in for a FREE consultation!
- ConcussionsAlong with overuse injuries, concussions are something I see become more frequent as the school year starts. In children and teens, concussions are very concerning because of how their brains are changing and growing. The management of concussions in this population is very different than in adults.Many studies are being done on concussions and we are just beginning to understand the effect they have long term. Proper treatment and management of post-concussion symptoms is key to helping the brain to heal fully.If your son or daughter has had memory loss, difficulty concentrating, headaches, neck pain, vision problems, or just odd symptoms following an injury, they NEED to be checked out. We do concussion rehab at my clinic, and would be happy to do a FREE screening to determine if they need further treatment.
- PostureOne of the problems I see developing in our population (I guess it has already developed) is that we are constantly in a forward posture. Looking at our phones, being on our computers, and sitting at desks has not done it any favors.Many of the problems I see on a daily basis (back pain, headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, etc) all are affected negatively by poor posture. The hard part is knowing what is good posture, along with knowing what influences posture. There are many factors that influence posture.You can concentrate on good posture all day long, but if your work set up is poor, you will just keep going back to it. Along with that, you can focus mentally on good posture but if your muscles don’t have enough strength/endurance, or you have too much stiffness or tightness in the upper back or chest, you won’t be able to maintain it.If your child seems to have bad posture and, even with you telling them to sit up straight, they can’t correct this themselves, they may need some help. Check out our FREE Report on signs your child’s posture is something to worry about.
- BackpacksWhen my daughter started Junior High this year, I was blown away by how much stuff she has to carry around. Of course, like a naïve parent, I suggested she put some of them in her locker so she wouldn’t have to carry them around all day. I soon learned there isn’t enough time to go to her locker in between classes so she has to carry everything with her. Since I can’t change the school’s in between class time, we better work on the backpack.The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a backpack shouldn’t weight more than 10-15% of the child’s body weight. You can do the math on this, but it isn’t very much. With my daughter, we ended up getting 2 backpacks and having one for her A days and one for her B days. It is still confusing for me, but hopefully it helps. If they can actually get to their locker, that would be best and unload the books they don’t need.A heavy backpack causes the child to lean forward and will put more stain on the growing spine. Holding the backpack on one shoulder also can be harmful (even though I did it in high school in the 90’s) and should be avoided.
- Watch for Spine ChangesAs a Scoliosis specialist, I would regret not putting a plug out there for watching your children for spine changes. They are not very common, but 3-4% of the population have some form of scoliosis or other spine deformity, which in Lehi Junior (1300 students) is 39 to 52 kids. That, in my opinion is worth watching for.In talking with the head nurse for Alpine School District, they are not doing Scoliosis screening anymore. They didn’t think there were enough kids with it to need to do it. Well, obviously I disagree.There are also other spine deformities to look for. If you are noticing a large hump on their back, uneven shoulders, a sharp angle of the ribs or upper back, or something off with their hips, come in for free screen to determine if it is something to worry about. Sometimes a bit of peace of mind is all you need, and many times there isn’t anything wrong.If you have questions about Scoliosis or Spine Deformities, check out my Top 6 Questions about Scoliosis FREE Report.
Back to school time is stressful for parents and kids. Keep these things in mind as they go off to school, soccer practice, football games, and other extracurricular activities. Let me know what questions you have!
David Butler, Physical Therapist
Owner, Clinic Director
Utah Physical Therapy – Lehi