Checking future adults…today! Spinal Awareness In May
May is the month of Spinal Awareness and this year the concentration is on children, as the title suggests have your child chceked at a young age to ensure the spine is in functioning and developing well leading to healthier stronger adults. Please see below for the topics of car, seats, school bags and general health of the developing nervous system.
It’s fair to say that most of us are aware of own posture and how it affects our daily lives, but are we aware of the development of our baby’s posture habits? Here at the Health and Vitality Centre we have spent years learning about how the nervous system develops and functions. As a result, tour team are equipped to apply this knowledge in a safe and effective way. The earlier this starts, the better!
The nervous system controls the entire body enabling us to develop skills such as: crawling, walking and sitting. We want the pathways to be working smoothly! Several practitioners with special expertise in Paediatric Techniques have become more concerned about the use of popular ‘baby aids’ which bypass some of these important steps.
While a busy parent may find it convenient to place their active and curious baby in something that encourages scooting around or enables them to sit up before they have the muscles and nerve pathways to do so. They have come up with some guidelines to encourage parents to support the appropriate growth and development of their children’s nervous system.
- Support your baby/toddler where they are currently in their development. Don’t encourage them to spend more time sitting or standing (in aids) before their own body is ready to support this.
- Give them plenty of tummy time. Start with five minutes at a time and build up the time they spend on their tummy. This encourages the spinal curves to develop properly and stimulates the area of the brain that deals with learning and co-ordination.
- Encourage games and play time that involves moving the hands and feet in similar patterns to crawling: such as touching toes with opposite hands. This teaches the brain to co-ordinate and stimulates nerve pathways between arms and legs to work properly.
- Find a Chiropractor or Osteopath who can check that your child is free of any interference between the brain and the body so they can develop to their best potential. Gently, safely and effective care for our children.
Baby Walkers and Seats
Parents are being urged not to allow their toddlers to use a baby walker and not to leave their babies in car seats when outside of the car. This advice comes from the UCA, which says that baby walkers are bad for toddlers, and carrying them around in a car seat is harmful to both child and parent.
The UCA has warned that prolonged periods on their back risks the development of plagiocephaly (flattening of bones in the infant’s skull). Research has linked plagiocephaly with a risk of not reaching full coordination and learning potential later in life. The UCA suggests a more upright position in a good quality baby sling is a safer alternative.
Keeping your baby in a car seat for a prolonged period keeps their spine in a C-shape which prevents the natural curves of the neck and lower back from forming. Added risk of that includes breathing problems. So while it is a great and safe way for babies to travel, the note to take home is that they should not be left for extended periods of time in them whilst outside of the car.
Not only is there risk to your child but it has health consequences for you too. As you lean to reach for the seat you are twisting and bending. Whilst the spine is designed to do that, it isn’t strong or stable enough to do both at once. With the added weight, it is also putting your core at risk. This is backed by research which shows that carrying your baby in a sling saves 16% of energy. Make sure the sling is of great quality that can carry your baby properly. Some slings aren’t designed very well and the weight is distributed through the baby’s hips which is bad. Find a sling which puts the baby’s hips in the correct position (think holding a koala), where the weight is distributed properly to encourage proper musculoskeletal development.
“The muscles that attach into the back of the head have a lot to do with co-ordination and balance and learning, so if they’re upright they are firing those muscles appropriately. They’re getting stimulus into their balance system by you moving.”
For more information go to www.united-chiropractic.org
Research is being carried out at schools in the UK, amid fears that young children are being weighed down by their school bags. There is concern that in many cases, children are carrying much more than the recommended maximum of 10% of their body weight, leading to posture and potentially spinal problems.
Vice-president of the UCA, Paul McCrossin, says, “For young children, 10% of their body weight might only be a few kilos so if they’re carrying lots of books and things they don’t really need, this will be too much weight for them. You see it every day, children with their heavy backpacks, leaning forward as they’re walking. “Carrying that sort of weight every day can certainly affect children’s posture and set off issues that may develop in the future.
Children can start to experience back pain from the age of 11-15 and if it starts then, there is a greater likelihood of it continuing into adulthood.
Previous international studies suggest that as many as 80% of children believe their backpacks are too heavy and almost half of children feel their backpack is causing them back ache. The new UK research hopes to discover if children here are suffering the same issues. Mr McCrossin said: “The research is about educating parents and schools, to tell them that carrying these weights is potentially harmful so that they can take preventative measures. If we can change these behaviours now, we can have an impact on future health, rather than having to fix problems down the line”.
“Schools can help the situation: they could ensure that the volume of work children are taking home is manageable and they could do posture and spinal awareness sessions with children. Even the kids on the TV show Neighbours use backpacks which are designed specifically for high school kids”.
The UCA has produced a list of tips to prevent potential back problems for schoolchildren:
- always wear backpacks on both shoulders
- buy a bag with thick shoulder straps to distribute the weight evenly
- choose a bag made of lightweight material and has multiple compartments for better weight distribution
- adjust the straps on a backpack to ensure the bag sits above the waist which reduces the pressure on the spine.
- Bags with a waist strap are also recommended.
- Use school lockers where provided
- use lightweight packed lunch containers
- carry only what is absolutely needed.
Parents can look out for tell-tale signs that their child is struggling under the weight of their bags.
Warning signs include:
- A change in posture when wearing their backpack
- Tingling and numbness in the arms and hands, and back, neck or shoulder pain.
Research references: Timothy Littlefield, et al., Car Seats, Infant Carriers, and Swings: Their Role in deformational Plagiocephaly Journal of Prosthetics & Orthotics 15 (July 2003): 102-106. Wall-Scheffler C, Geiger K, Steudel-Numbers K. Infant carrying: The increased locomotory costs in early development. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 2007; 133: 841-846. Doi: 10,1002/ajpa.20603 Hunziker UA, Barr RZ. Increased Carrying Reduces Infant Crying: A randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics 1986;77(5): 641-648