Sunday, 15 September 2013


It’s that time of year again when children go back to school and all those lovely weeks of relaxation are forgotten almost instantly.

While at school children are learning large amounts of information, but this comes with a price – a giant textbook, a musical instrument, a laptop. All of these essential school items needing to be carried to and from school each day soon add up to a rather heavy load.
A backpack is a practical way to carry several items although you need to take care not to overload. It has been suggested that the maximum recommended weight for any child to carry in a backpack is 15% of their body weight.

Our body will compensate for any load applied to it over an extended period of time – but an overloaded backpack may lead to:
       Leaning forward to change centre of gravity in order to bear the heavy weight – leading to a reduction in  balance
    Rounding shoulders to try and cope with the weight exerted on them 
               Distortion of the natural curves in the back – which can lead to irritation of joints in the spine and ribcage and strain on muscles

Carrying a backpack on one shoulder or any other type of one shoulder bag can lead to a change in posture as the body tries to even out the weight distribution, the body (and spine) lean to the opposite side of the load – adding extra strain to the mid back, ribs and lower back on one side more than the other, this imbalance in muscles can cause short term back pain.

How to Choose Your Backpack:

    Shoulder straps – straps should be wide and padded – this prevents digging in and discomfort in the shoulder muscles and a more even weight distribution. They should also be easily adjustable so that the bag can be fitted optimally at each wear.
     Waist strap – this can help distribute some of the weight of the backpack more evenly from the shoulders and back to the pelvis.
      Contoured back – this can help the backpack sit better over the curves of the spine and can also allow airflow, helping keep the back cool
      Lightweight material – the lighter the backpack empty the less chance of weight overload
     Internal compartments and straps – this helps an even distribution of load and prevents items from shifting around in transit

Tips on Packing Your Backpack

   Pack heavier items first so that they are lowest and closest to the body
     Evenly distribute the load by filling compartments
     Make sure sharp or bulky items don’t poke into the back
     Adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack is snug to the body and carried high – don’t carry the backpack low and loose.
    If you need to lean forward when carrying the backpack it is likely too heavy.

All of this information can relate to adults carrying heavy items on their daily commute to work as well – this advice is not just for school children.

If your child has been complaining of back pain or you are concerned about their posture please give us a call on 020 8563 2608 and book your child in for a free back to school back check with Chiropractor Hazel Dillon, these are being held after school on Tuesday 22nd and  Wednesday 23rd October between 4.30 and 6.30 pm, slots are fifteen minutes long. 

Hazel Dillon is a Chiropractor at the Octagon Clinic

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Exercise of the month - Curl Up

The curl up is the best way to perform any type of 'sit up' abdominal exercise - if you do the curl up correctly you will challenge your core muscles whilst imposing minimal compressive load on your spine. You will be placing half the amount of compressive load on your spine from doing a curl up instead of a full sit up

The curl up

Always warm up before doing any core exercises - the cat camel stretch as shown previously on our blog is a great way to warm up - do it slowly with a view to limbering up your spine rather than stretching it out.

When you perform the curl up all the effort needs to come from your abdominal muscles. The muscle you are looking to work is the 'Rectus Abdominus' (muscle labelled 2 and only shown on 1 side of the body) this muscle attaches at the top to your ribs and sternum and goes down attaching at the bottom to your pubic bone - this is the muscle that gives the look of a 6 pack!

When you are performing the curl up focus on squeezing this muscle together from top to bottom to make it shorter - as you do this your shoulders will naturally lift from the floor but the movement should be lead by the shortening of the muscle not by actively lifting up your shoulders. When you get the technique for this exercise correct you will  find it much harder to do. If you feel tension in your shoulders or back then go back to the starting position and try again - keeping your focus on the abdominal muscles doing all the work.

When performing this exercise keep your chin tucked in and when starting out bend your knees as shown in the picture - this helps to keep your back in a neutral position - as you progress on with this exercise you can 1st straighten 1 knee and then both as your abdominal muscles become stronger.

Start by doing 1 set of 6 reps and build up to doing 3 sets of 15 reps.

Enjoy the search for that exclusive 6 pack.

If you are suffering with back pain and would like to come and see us for treatment and advice please get in contact.

Hazel Dillon is a Chiropractor at the Octagon Clinic