Do You Know How Much Your Child’s Backpack Weighs?

Your child’s backpack should never weigh more than 15% of their body weight. Every years we give a series of Backpack Safety Workshops at a local Middle School. A random sampling of the student’s backpacks found the majority were 25-30% of their body weight. Only one student’s backpack was below 15%.

Heavy backpacks are one of the major causes of back pain in school age students. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics 6% of 10 year olds and 18% of 14-16 year olds have low back pain. Only 7% of those children with low back pain seek medical treatment.

There are many causes of low back pain in children including laptops, sitting, smart phones and poor posture. Here we will focus on backpacks. Below are important tips to make backpacks less dangerous to your school aged children:

  • Make sure your backpack weighs no more than 10 – 15% of your body weight
  • Empty your backpack periodically to insure it contains no unnecessary items
  • Make sure your backpack hangs no more than 4 inches below your waist
  • Use both straps!
  • Use thickly padded straps
  • If your backpack has a waist strap, use it!
  • Always place the heaviest items closed to your back (your center of gravity)
  • Always lift with your legs, without twisting

Now is a great time to weigh your child’s backpack. If it weighs more than 15% of their body weight, go through it and make sure it only contains what they need for school. If you child complains of back pain take it seriously and seek chiropractic care ASAP. If your school would be interested in our Backpack Safety Workshop please contact me. We do these as a public service. It is also important to measure torso length first in order to choose the right backpack.

“The Wayland Middle School Wellness department is so thankful to have partnered with the amazing chiropractors at Performance Health Center for a second year. Through their generous donation of time, we were able to teach over 200 6th graders about proper posture, how to properly pack a backpack, and how to prevent injuries by teaching them the guidelines on how to wear a backpack properly.”

Pam Riddle, M.Ed., ATC, CMT

Wellness & Health Teacher

Don’t Let Your Kids Become a CDC Statistic!

The numbers are staggering.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year.
  • More than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year.
  • Children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals. On average the rate and severity of injury increases with a child’s age.
  • Overuse injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school students
  • According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.

Spring sports will be starting soon for your kids.  Don’t let them become a CDC statistic.  Prior to participating in sports your children should have a functional evaluation.  How is their range of motion? How is their posture? Are all the joints in their spine and extremities moving correctly?  How is their muscle tone and balance?  How quick is the muscle activation response time?  These are all good indicators on the state of an athlete’s functional health.  A good thing about being young is that if is a problem they usually respond quickly to chiropractic care.

If you missed the pre-season evaluation or you have a child who is still side-lined and suffering from a sports related injury, do not give up. It is never too late.

In December I meet a young teenage athlete who was not able to participate in sports because of lingering back pain for over a year and a half.  He injured himself in a baseball game where he was the short stop.  He fell over an opponent and twisted as he landed.  He had not been able to participate in sports since this injury.  During the consult, his mother said to me, “I just want a diagnosis so I know what is wrong.”  She had taken her son to multiple physicians without a concrete diagnosis.  He had a course of PT without lasting benefit.  I did my assessment and found dysfunction, or stuck joints, in his low back, muscle guarding and sciatic nerve entrapment.  His mom was relieved on knowing there was something wrong. She was even happier when I was able to provide a mechanical solution to her son’s mechanical problem.  The great news is that he able to swing a bat and throw a baseball again without pain!  He is looking forward to baseball tryouts in a few weeks.

Not only do we assess athlete’s pre-season function and get our patient’s out of pain and back to sports, the most important service we provide is called Performance Care. The goal of Performance Care is to optimize mechanical function and catch little issues before they become serious ones.  All the chiropractors at Performance Health Center get pleasure knowing that we pay a small role in our patient’s success!

Two of our teenage athletes have recently made major accomplishments in their sports:

  • Matt Gastaldo of Natick High School won his weight class at the Division 2 state wrestling meet last month.

I encourage all athletes to have regular chiropractic care during their sports season.  Race cars need more maintenance than street cars, and athletes are like race cars. If there is an injury, as long as there is no blood or guts, the faster they get checked and treated with functional chiropractic treatment, the faster the recovery, the faster they get back to sports and the least chance of lasting injury.

There is often a long term detriment from participating in youth sports. It amazes me how many adults I meet who trace their pain complaints back to high school sports.  If they had the benefit of a sports minded chiropractor when they were participating in youth sports they might not have ended up in chronic pain.

If you have any questions on what is involved in a pre-sports functional examination, want to optimize your performance, or are side-lined because of injury please call us at 508-655-9008, or email me at


National Backpack Safety Day

So…some of you may or may not know that September 21, 2016, was National Backpack Safety Day.  I didn’t even know until it popped up on my news feed the night before.  I did however know that a few weeks prior to this that Dr. Ball and I were going to be giving presentations to the 6th graders at Wayland Middle school that week discussing Backpack Safety, what a coincidence!

I must say it worked out rather perfectly.  Pam, a patient of mine, and Wellness Teacher at Wayland Middle School, had contacted me a while back asking if I or our office would be interested in putting together a presentation to help teach the students about wearing their backpacks safely.  How could we say no to such a great opportunity?  I will get into the details of what Dr. Ball and I discussed at Wayland Middle School with the 6th graders in just a little bit.

But first, I want to thank Pam, Brian, and Coach Arkansas for letting us be apart of their school event.  The presentations themselves went very well, (please read the testimonial at the bottom).  We tried to provide a good balance between proper education at a level the students could all relate to, and group activity for each class to take part in.  We all know that presentations about good posture, backpack safety, facts and statistics and such things can become quite boring, so the more interactive and hands on each class could be the better!

I bet many parents don’t even know how to wear a backpack correctly or instruct their children how to do so.  It has become an epidemic with the amount of students that are presenting to our office with neck, mid back or low back pain due to wearing back packs that are WAY too heavy for them, or worn incorrectly.

Did you know that a backpack is not supposed to weigh more then 10% of your body weight?  Did you know that there is a proper way to load a backpack before wearing it?  Load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back, and make sure the materials are arranged so they do not slide around.  Did you know that you are supposed to wear a backpack on both shoulders so the weight is evenly distributed?  Did you know that a backpack is supposed to sit at waist level, or not more then a couple of inches below the waist?  Did you know that you should also go through your child’s backpack weekly together to see what is in there, and to remove items that they don’t need?  These are just a handful of helpful facts and tips we discussed and demonstrated with each class how to do correctly.

I hope you all will find the information above helpful this month in regards to helping your children, and yourselves to lead a more healthy pain free lifestyle.  The classes that I taught that Thursday were a blast, and I look forward to attending next year to work with Wayland Middle School and a new group of 6th graders!

If any parents or students are interested in a Backpack Safety Presentation at your school, please feel free to contact me.  And, as always, should you or your child have pain or symptoms in regards to what was discussed above that has not subsided or improved with these recommendations, please feel free to contact me in regards as to what to do:


Backpack Safety Testimonial:

The Wayland Middle School Wellness Department would to say thank you to Dr. Van Nederynan & Dr. Ball for graciously donating their time to our program during National Backpack Awareness Day. Over the course of two days, more than 200 6th graders were taught not only how to wear a backpack properly, but how to pack it properly, and how to avoid injury while wearing a backpack. Our students thoroughly enjoyed the hands-on learning that look place as they weighed their backpacks and did some simple math to calculate the percentage that their backpack weighs in relation to their own body weight. When polled, more than half of all 6th graders have experienced some form of back and neck pain in their life. It is our hope that by partnering with the Doctors at Performance Health, that we can prevent injuries from occurring.


Pam Riddle, MEd, ATC, CMT




School’s Back in Session = Increase in Headaches in Children

I will be taking the time in the next news letter or two to write about headaches, partially because I deal with migraines, and partially because I have been seeing more patients in my office including children, not just adults, that have been dealing with headaches more and more.  From personal experience, if you are not someone that battles headaches, they stink!

There have been many findings and much research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital that there has been an increase in headaches in children when returning back to school in the fall.  When children return back to school there can be an increase in stress levels, their daily routines change, as well as their sleep patterns.

The most common type of headache I have been seeing are tension headaches in my practice.  However, migraines have become more popular lately.  Migraines are usually a little less common in children, though children usually experience severe pain with migraines in regards to nausea, sensitivity to light, sound and vomiting.  Tension headaches can be very discomforting to children, but not as severe as migraines, and usually one can continue on through out the day if has too.

Some other triggers that can cause an increase in headaches include poor hydration and too much time in front of the screen.  Various academic stressors, extracurricular activities, lack of sleep, missing meals, too much caffeine, even lack of exercise increase headaches.  Traumatic falls, intense activity, and even diet can affect headaches in children.

There are some things that parents can do proactively at home to help prevent their children from having headaches:

  • Eating regular healthy meals and snacks through out the day. Sometimes eliminating foods such as dairy, refined sugars, and gluten that are inflammatory can help to lessen headache symptoms.
  • Adequate Sleep, whether it is going to bed early enough every night, or naps during the day.
  • Drinking enough WATER through out the day to hydrate, no juices or sodas that have sugar and caffeine and can dehydrate children more.
  • Working to help remove stress in their children’s lives.
  • Limiting the amount of time a child can spend watching TV, using the computer, phone, ipad, or video games. Electronic stimulation can be huge contributing factor.
  • Stretching their necks and upper and mid back region, and being more aware of posture.
  • Minimizing the use of NSAIDS when possible to treat symptoms as well, because they can often make headaches worse.

If some of these things do not help to relieve a child’s symptoms and headaches, the parent should then consult with a family doctor, family chiropractic physician or natural health care practitioner.  If headaches are interfering with a child’s “daily routine”, it is time to get evaluated, so some type of treatment, chiropractic, acupuncture, nutritionist, massage or physical therapy can be implemented to help decrease or hopefully eliminate the symptoms.

How The Courage Of A Young Man With Cerebral Palsy Inspired An Entire School

The Matt W. Story

Matt Inspired An Entire School.  Do YOU Have These Kinds Of Guts?

Who knows what his real, full name is.  “Matt W.” was all that was given and that’s all that is needed, because Matt W.’s actions speak louder than words ever could.

Here is why:  Matt W. is a student at Worthington Colonial Hills Elementary School in Ohio.  But Matt W. is not your average student.  You see, Matt suffers from cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a serious condition and according to the Mayo Clinic, “Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth.  Signs and symptoms appear during infancy or preschool years.  In general, cerebral palsy causes impaired movement associated with exaggerated reflexes or rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, involuntary movements, unsteadiness of walking, or some combination of these.  The effect of cerebral palsy on functional abilities varies greatly.  People with cerebral palsy often have other conditions related to developmental brain abnormalities, such as intellectual disabilities, vision and hearing problems, or seizures.”

That’s why it was a very big deal when Matt decided he was going to run the 400 meters (approximately ¼ mile) at his school’s once a year track event.  What happened during that race is one of the most inspirational events you’ll ever see. There’s a link to a video of it below, but we’ll describe it here…

At the start of the race, all the 5th and 6th graders took off.  Matt slowly made his way off the starting line.  His running strides were labored but what he lacked in grace he made up for in determination… tenfold.  The video’s soundtrack is the theme for Rocky.

The race was two complete laps around the 200 meter track and the other students quickly lapped him.  Then, the real magic started.  Matt’s gym teacher, John Blaine, started running the race with Matt while providing him verbal and emotional support.

As Matt completed the first lap, supporters started to cheer more.  About a quarter of the way around his second lap, a little girl made her way over to Matt while yelling to cheer him on.  Inspired by Matt (and taking the little girl’s lead) more students rushed over to join Matt.

Students completely surrounded him with everyone chanting over and over, “Let’s go Matt… Let’s go!!!” Matt picked up his pace as his classmates and friends energized him.

More and more students appeared.  They all crossed the finished line together with a massive cheer in just under four minutes.  The students swarmed Matt with high fives and hugs.  Matt was obviously exhausted but enjoyed this amazing moment with his supporters.

Matt’s mother broke down in tears several times as she witnessed her son’s incredible journey and life lesson for us all.

Many doctors believe in the power of positive thought.  Not only does it have the power to possibly heal us, but it can also move mountains when it has to.

Matt W. may never win an Olympic Gold medal, but his actions during this 400 meter race may change more lives than any Gold Medal winner probably ever has.

There is no doubt many of his classmates will achieve great successes in life because of Matt W.’s remarkable inspiration. Here’s the video of Matt W.’s amazing race:

 We love helping our patients and their friends and relatives through their tough times and getting them feeling better!  We are here to help you stay feeling better and looking younger!  Don’t be a stranger.  You really can afford Chiropractic care! Don’t wait until you can no longer move!

(c) 2012 Altadonna Communications, Inc

More Bad News About Second-Hand Smoke and Children

 In a presentation at the American Urological Association Annual Meeting, physicians from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital showed more evidence that second-hand cigarette smoke is an environmental toxin and dangerous to children’s health

“Our research shows that exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke increases the risk of severe urinary disorders in children that may otherwise be reduced or even prevented,” said Joseph G. Barone, MD, an expert pediatric urologist, Associate Professor of Surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Surgeon-In-Chief of Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. “Our results emphasize the importance of smoking cessation for parents. Pediatricians and family physicians are urged to discuss with parents opportunities that are available to quit smoking.”

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that parents are responsible for 90 percent of their children’s exposure to environmental (second-hand) tobacco smoke.


(c) 2012 Altadonna Communications, Inc