Why Kids Wearing Their Backpack This Way Can Be Dangerous

Another school year is soon to be here and boy did this summer just fly by! The start of school is physically and mentally demanding for students.  Most kids throughout the summer might have lost the strength and stamina it takes to lug heavy bags around and sit in chairs for hours.  

Here are some complementary tips for a safe, productive and healthy school year.

The general consensus is that a backpack should not exceed 10%-15% of one’s body weight.  Adding more weight than recommended causes the person to bend backwards, which puts pressure on the fluid filled spinal discs.  This bowing of the spine forces the head to shift forward to compensate for the backwards pull.

 
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These two scenarios may lead to a condition known as Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS).  AHS can lead to early degeneration of the spine and nervous system straining that otherwise would not occur.

Are some backpacks or bags better than others? Yes!  A backpack with two straps provides even weight distribution for the body.   Having two straps over the shoulders allows the person to use their largest muscles.  Using larger muscles leads to less fatigue and less chances of putting strain on the spine. 

So how about one strap across the body?  This can compress the first rib and affect the brachial plexus, which is a bundle of nerves coming off your neck.  If you must use a one-strap bag, make sure to alternate shoulders periodically.

 
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Here is a quick review:

-Two shoulder straps not one.

-The backpack should be 10%-15% of body weight, keeping heavier items closer towards the spine.

-An over stuffed bag can be a tripping hazard on a school bus or classroom aisle.

-Turning abruptly can knock or hit another person off balance.

-Sore and tired muscles can affect concentration in the classroom or at work.

-Wearing a backpack appropriately will help ensure your child’s health & safety.

Here’s to a safe, happy and healthy school year!

Sun Screen and Children: Here's What You Need To Know

 
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Life would be difficult with out the awesome benefits that the sun offers. We can't live without it but what we can do, is learn to safely enjoy the outdoors with out sacrificing our health. Not all sunscreens are created equal, some can disrupt hormone systems and cause acceleration of skin disorders to happen. Here are a few places to watch out for these hidden chemicals in your sunscreens.

Avoid sunscreens that contain:

∙ Oxybenzone- This chemical is a synthetic estrogen that disrupts human hormones. Many studies have gone on to show that it lowers male testosterone a noticeable amount.

∙ Vitamin A (retinol or retinyl palmitate)- Its been shown that tumors and lesions develop sooner when you lather on Vitamin A.

∙ Methylisothiazolinone- Well known skin allergen that is used as an inactive ingredient and is recognized by many skin associations as being on “the list”.

Try mineral based sunscreens with these instead:

∙ Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide- both are known to have very little to no skin absorption, cause skin allergies or disrupt hormones

∙ 3% Avobenzone, Mexoryl Sx – these two have very little skin absorption but have some chance of skin irritation

Young children and infants under 6 months have a very high skin absorption rate. If the sun is unavoidable, sunscreen on the exposed parts only would be ok. A shirt, bottom and hat is the best defense to curb harmful UV rays. UV rays are highest in the mid day so try doing activities earlier in the day or in the evening when they're lower.
  

Vitamin D is a hormone produced by the kidneys. It's responsible for optimal bone health, maintaining estrogen and testosterone levels, immune system and so much more. Its a precursor to many hormones in the body. Although its essential we need it, we only need it in small amounts.

While we do get some from our diet, a quick 5-10 minutes in the sun with our arms and legs exposed gets the right amount. The nice thing is that the 10 minutes can be broken up through out the day.


Its a delicate balance between gathering the sun's benefits and avoiding long term damage to our health. Learning how to protect our bodies from the sun with out damaging our body can make all the difference in the world. Use this information to have a safe, health and happy time outdoors this summer!

Crawling: The Link Between Learning Disabilities and Developmental Delays

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There might be something to the old saying that “you've got to crawl, before you can walk.” Many times when we hear a baby has skipped the crawling stage, we give praise to the little one.

After all, it's an amazing feat to stand on one's own power at such a young age! As amazing as this is, we shouldn't write off crawling just yet. Research has shown that crawling provides many benefits such as optimal brain development and the formation of spinal structures.

Crawling normally starts at six months and lasts up to twelve months. Although an infant can develop just fine without crawling, it would behoove the parents to encourage crawling as much as possible to ensure optimal brain and body development. In the next paragraphs we''ll take a granular look at a few areas to how crawling is beneficial for development.

Primitive Reflexes and Learning Disabilities

It's been found that primitive reflexes, which are normally present at birth, are inhibited by crawling. The longer an infant hangs on to their primitive reflexes, the greater chance they have of growing into learning disabilities and developmental delays.

One example is a reflex called the “Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR)” which helps us operate our upper and lower body independently. As a baby raises their heads up they should also extend their arms and bend the legs which prepares them for sitting. This reflex normally disappears by the ninth or twelve month after six months of continuous crawling.


In this study, the correlation between learning disabilities and having a strong STNR was found to be very high.


...It has been found that at least 75 percent of those diagnosed with ADHD/learning disorders had immature symmetric tonic neck reflex (STNR) contributing to their condition.”

(Konicarova, Bob, Rabock, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 2013)

Integration- It's All About the Brain

The study is showing that most kids who have a learning disability also have a strong presence of primitive reflexes. The brain is like a sponge at this age and is rewiring itself constantly. The presence of primitive reflexes in developing child is like pressing the gas and brake at the same time in terms of developing.

At birth, the brain has grown 25% of adult size and by age three the brain is about 80% fully grown. Neurons are connecting their synapses at blazing speeds each time a new skilled is learned. It's a term called Neuroplasticity, the ability for our brains to learn new skills. Similar to how a stroke victim can regain their function after injury.

Crawling creates an efficient network of neuron connections which helps infants explore their world. Better movement helps them gain new opportunities to learn new skills.

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Crawling Provides the Building Blocks for a Solid Spinal Foundation
A normal adult spine consists of three spinal curves that look like an S-shape from the side. These spinal curves work together to absorb shock, similar to how a spring works.

Crawling naturally causes the head to raise up which strengthens the neck muscles responsible for creating a proper neck curve. Six months of crawling reinforces the spine to stay in an optimal position and fortifies the brain to body connection.


Without the fortification from the neck and postural muscles to hold the spine in it's proper position, the spinal bones may be predisposed to early deterioration. An abnormal shift in spinal structure is like a house with a shifted foundation. Over time you may notice cracks in the walls and squeaky door hinges and while fixing these things may help temporarily, a quick inspection of foundation may reveal the root cause of the condition.

Even though a baby doesn't know it yet, each time they crawl is a step towards laying the foundation that all future skills will be built upon.

Build that Immune System!

A babies immune system is not complete when they are born. They acquire immunity through the mother's milk, which supplies antibodies to fight off bacteria and viruses. It's no secret that babies put things in their mouth. They expose themselves to new bugs which causes them to get sick. Fever, runny nose, coughing are all signs of a healthy immune response.It's nature's way of expressing health.

So....What If My Baby Hardly Crawls Or Skips It All Together?

At the end of the day, it would be beneficial to develop a clear brain to body connection, core, shoulder strength and proper spinal structure early in life. Crawling looks to be a great way to maximize this opportunity!

If your baby doesn't crawl as much as you think they should, they’ll still develop properly but may do so at a different pace than others babies who have spent more time in the quadruped position.

A lack of hitting milestones could be a sign that he or she may need a complete Nero-developmental evaluation. Our office focuses on correcting/improving Neuro-developmental abnormalities that may be present in infants and children. Early detection and correction of these abnormalities can help a child to take advantage of their brain's ability to rapidly learn and adapt to the world around them.

The Importance of Proper Hand Grasp

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Think back to when you were first learning how to write. Did you immediately grab the pencil and start writing perfectly? Probably not. You most likely remember learning how to first grasp your pencil correctly, then tracing letters and words, until eventually you were able to write them out on your own. What you probably didn’t know was that while you were learning to write, you were also working out small muscles in your hand and fingers. This is known as fine motor development and is essential in everyday activities such as writing, feeding, and putting on clothes with buttons or zippers. When kids have fine motor problems, they tend to avoid tasks that are required of them in everyday situations. This often leads to frustration, poor academic performance, and self-esteem issues. First, let’s learn some background information about certain grasps that will help with your child’s handwriting skills!


Types of Pencil Grasps

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Quadruped grasp (3 years old)

pencil held between the index, third finger, thumb, and rests on the fourth finger

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Tripod grasp (3-6 years old)

pencil held between the index and third fingers with the tips of the thumb and index finger on the pencil

Want to strengthen your grasp more? Here are some helpful exercises you can do at home!

Activities for grip strength:

  • Squeeze a sponge

  • Carry shopping bags

  • Pour a liquid such as water or milk into a container

  • Getting dressed/undressed by themselves

  • Ringing out a washcloth after a bath

  • Using a spray bottle to water plants

  • Using scissors to cut a piece of paper


Activities for fine motor grip strength:

  • Squeezing soft toys/balls

  • Using a stapler

  • Crumble pieces of paper into balls and then throw them into a basket or trash can

  • Sharpening pencils

  • Picking up small toys with tongs

  • Picking out small objects in putty/playdoh

Activities for gross motor grip strength

  • Playing tug of war

  • Baseball and tennis

  • Riding a bike

  • Using outdoor tools such as a rake or shovel





Sensory-Friendly & Safety Halloween Tips

With fall right around the corner, many parents may have already started to think about all the fun that comes with Halloween. Here are some helpful tips to get you and your little ghost ready for a fun-filled night.

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Costume suggestions:

  • Incorporate your child’s own ideas when deciding on a potential costume

  • Seamless costumes may help your child feel more comfortable

  • Have your child wear the costume around the house before wearing it on Halloween night

  • Washing your child’s costume a few times may help the fabric soften and feel more complacent

  • Weighted vests and costumes with learning objects (lace, zippers, buttons…) on them will help your child improve their fine motor skills without them even realizing it!

  • Be creative- sometimes the best costumes are the ones made from home. This may be a better option since your child is familiar with their own clothes.

  • Making sure they are comfortable is the #1 most important part of the costume process; if they are not comfortable, they probably won’t want to wear it later


Safety precautions when going trick-or-treating:

  • Talk to your child about street safety (not running in the street, staying with their parents...etc)

  • Go out at earlier times so that it’s not very dark when you are walking around outside

  • If you are walking around at night, bring glow-in-the-dark sticks/jewelry or a flashlight to have more light, while also adding something fun for your child

  • Before eating any candy, check the wrappers to make sure they are not open

Fun Learning Activities With Treats:

  • Encourage spatial and visual motor skills by helping your child sort treats by color, size and shape

  • Counting treats can be a fun way to work on math skills

  • Practice in hand manipulation skills by picking up 2-4 treats at a time with one hand

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Posture - The Window To Your Child's Health

 
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We all remember our mothers and fathers telling us to walk tall or sit up straight. Most of us never listened or brushed it off until we got into our later years.  Having bad posture may not be severely debilitating but it accounts for most aches, pains and dysfunction in the body.  The problem with trying to consciously fix your own posture 24 hours a day 7 days a week is that it doesn't work, especially if your only two years old. Most people think of bad posture as a conscious decision by the person to allow their muscles to be lazy.  Normally, it would make sense to strengthen these "weak muscles'' in order to fix this problem.  However, that is usually done with a regimen of repetitive and tedious exercises that have little results by themselves. Having said this, our therapeutic protocols help patients achieve their goals by correcting improper movements in the patient and supplementing with exercises to drive normal motor patterns in the brain.

 

Bad posture is a sign of health problems, not the cause of health problems.

  Just like we can observe adults exhibit abnormal posture, we can see it in our children too. Any patient and/or parents of ours can tell you that we assess motor planning, function and execution of movements.  These findings are used  as an indicator to help make recommendations for care and to monitor through out care.  The postural distortions are only seen as muscular condition only, we are looking for something much deeper. Posture is the window to the structure of your spine and function of your nervous system.  This information tells us a lot about the structural and neurological health of the body.

 

So what happens when the structural alignment of the spine and motor planning is lost?

1. Information is relayed back and forth through the nervous system.  Having even small deviation(s) of spinal segments will give scrambled information.  This will cause the brain and other structures of the body to work harder, making simple tasks become difficult.

 

2. Blood flow and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that exit the brain will become sluggish. This fluid is crucial for the nourishment and cleansing of the brain. Kids have a brain that is growing at a high rate. With that growth comes more metabolic waste which must be pumped out efficiently.

 

3. Neural plasticity is your brain’s ability to learn new things. The more you do something, the further entrenched it becomes in your brain making it difficult to change. Now imagine walking in grass field over and over, eventually you will make a path that can be made stronger or weaker depending on the route you take. Learning ways around these “bad pathways” is what we strive for when helping our patients.

 

When you have these three factors together it will produce "bad posture''. More importantly,  there is an obstruction of information from the nervous system to the body and a slow but steady decay in motor planning and action.  Posture is important for the reason that it can show a nervous system problem but it is not the CAUSE of the condition. Our highly trained and skilled therapists do just that, identify the weakness and then implement evidenced-based therapeutic techniques to improve it.

 

The Surprising Truth About Your Child's Sleep

According to Matthew Walker, a Cognitive Neuroscientist at UC Berkeley, quality sleep is the most important factor for every aspect of health. Getting under 6 hours of sleep a night significanlty increases our chances for diseases such as Alzheimers, cardiovascular issues, obesity and altered expression how DNA genes are read. Yeah, it's crucial.

 

Sleep is gone forever the moment we miss out on it.

 

We can never "catch up" on sleep. Our brain, unfortunately, does not work like a bank where you can make deposits and withdrawals from accumulated Zzz's. 

The first moments of life are an explosion of cells into brain and spinal chord development. By the time your child is 6 years old, he will have 95% weight of is adult brain. Trillions of neuron connections have been made up to this point. There's no question that our children have adequate sleep for future health. In order to appreciate the importance of sleep a bit more, here are some tips get the best rest we all can.

-Its been shown in the research, that when learning a new skill, the brain actually makes the connections stronger during sleep. 

-Sleeping in cooler environment will help your child get deeper sleep. Our body temperature naturally lowers steadily through the night.

-Eating a heavy dose of carbs close to bed time will cause Insulin to spike due to elevated blood sugars. Your child may toss and turn more if their blood sugar takes to big of a dip.

-Turning off half the lights in the house helps the body produce Melatonin, a hormone that tells your body when to sleep. Light bulbs LED screens all trick our brains into thinking its day time.

-Having a bedtime routine is huge advantage to help kids recognize that its time for bed. These simple cues help the brain go into automatic thinking mode and reduces anxiety.

-Plumbing system: Our brain has a plumbing system that cleans out protein plaque and damaged cells through out the night. In order to remove these toxins, a solid nights sleep is needed every night to flush them out. 

***For the adults: If you've ever had a difficult decision to make or a lot on your mind, you may have heard the term: "Just sleep on it....". There may be some truth to that. Research has shown that people perform much better after a nap or long nights rest when facing difficult tasks the next day.

 

Hours of Sleep Needed by Age

                          Age                                                      Recommended                      

            Toddlers 1-2 years                                11 to 14 hours           

 Preschoolers 3-5 years                        10 to 13 hours

School-aged Children 6-13 years       9 to 11 hours

Teenagers 14-17 years                          8 to 10 hours