Backpack Misuse And Chronic Pain: 5 Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Bookbag

Image courtesy of Comrade Foot.

Image courtesy of Comrade Foot.

Chronic back pain is common, and, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), young children are suffering from back pain sooner than previous generations. One of the main reason is the heavy backpacks that children lug around each year, despite digital advances.

“In my own practice, I have noticed a marked increase in the number of young children who are complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain,” stated Scott Bautch, DC, of the ACA Council on Occupational Health in a press release. “The first question I ask these patients is, ‘Do you carry a backpack to school?’ Almost always, the answer is ‘yes.'”

So, as you prepare for back-to-school season or even as you consider a new backpack for yourself, the ACA has some tips to make sure you’re not one of the almost 5,500 people who get treated for backpack-related injuries at emergency rooms.

  1. Does it weigh 5% – 10% of your body weight? According to Dr. Bautch,  a backpack should weight no more than 5% to 10% of your or your child’s body weight. If a backpack weighs too much, the body naturally shifts forward, using the back to support the extra weight, rather than the shoulders.
  2. Is it the correct size? Backpacks should narrower and longer than your torso as well as hang fewer than four inches below the waist, which may be difficult to find for children. However it is important because backpacks that hang too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing the body to lean forward when walking.
  3. Does it have two wide, padded, adjustable shoulder straps? Wide, padded, and adjustable straps are very important, according to the ACA. They keep the backpack comfortable and the weight on the shoulders. Also, if you’re shopping for a child, encourage them to use both shoulder straps, even if it’s not the ‘cool’ thing to do. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
  4. Does the backpack have a padded back? A padded back is more comfortable, but it also helps protect sharp objects or edges from poking through.
  5. Does the pack have several compartments? Compartments are important because they kelp to keep that contents safely stored and evenly positioned. The ACA notes that pointy or bulky objects should be placed away from the area that will rest on your back.

Additionally, if you notice your child struggling with a heavy backpack, talk with the teacher about alternate therapies, such as using an electronic book or getting some additional copies for home. On a personal note, scoliosis runs in my family, and one of my family members had a very painful time carrying her backpack around starting in middle school. With a simple conversation with teachers and a properly-fitted backpack, she was able to help lighten her load, perhaps preventing years of future pain.

Creative Commons License
Photo above is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Tips To Stay Fit At Any Age [Infographic]

Image courtesy of USAG- Humphreys.

Image courtesy of USAG- Humphreys.

Did you know that childhood obesity spikes in the summer months. Without recess or P.E., some children will stay put instead of getting the exercise their bodies and minds need. And as we get older, we still need activity, but the best types for us may change.

With that in mind, Bankers Healthcare Group, a company that offers financial solutions for healthcare professionals, decided to informally poll the health and fitness blogosphere to see what advice the community had for keeping fit at any age.

As part of its initiative to get people moving, they compiled the responses into one handy (and good looking) infographic with some interesting information. For example, it breaks down types of suggested activities by age range, as well as the benefits of each.

See the infographic below or visit the Bankers Healthcare Group’s blog post to learn more.

Image courtesy of Banker's Healthcare Group.

5 Waist-Friendly Sides For the Fourth of July

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The Fourth of July is this weekend, which means plenty of friends, fun, and backyard BBQs. However, many cookout side dishes are high in calories and low in nutrients.

“With the average cookout plate racking up more than 2,000 calories, many people are looking for healthier options to take to backyard cookouts,” stated Kari Kooi, a registered dietitian at Houston Methodist Hospital, in a press release. “This Fourth of July does not have to be a challenge for those wanting to maintain or lose weight this summer.”

Kooi recommends these four healthy side dishes that help you enjoy the summer festivities but don’t bust your diet.

Image courtesy of Stephen Depolo.

Smoky Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Grilled sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts into Vitamin A. To prepare, boil the potatoes in water until fork-tender and slice into lengthwise wedges. Coat the potatoes with a light layer of canola oil and grill for two to three minutes on each side. For an extra flavor kick, Kooi recommends adding finely grated lime zest and ground cumin to the canola oil prior to coating the potatoes.  Image courtesy of Stephen Depolo.

Image courtesy of citymama.

Watermelon-Cucumber Salad 
Because watermelons and cucumbers are mostly made up of water, this salad helps fill you up without filling you out. To prepare, mix small cubes of cucumbers and watermelon with minced mint in a large bowl. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Image courtesy of citymama.

 

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Creamy Herbed Greek Yogurt Dip
Packed with protein and antioxidant-rich herbs, this creamy, cool dip is a healthy alternative to traditional high-calorie dips like ranch dressing. To prepare, simply mix plain, low-fat Greek yogurt with two teaspoons of lemon juice, chopped dill, chives, and fresh basil. Serve with crisp vegetables or whole wheat pita chips.
Short on time? You can buy packaged dips like this at your local supermarket. They may not be as healthy, but they’ll be better for you than alternatives. Image courtesy of theimpulsivebuy

 

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Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
If you really want a burger on the Fourth, this is not for you. But if you have vegetarians at your cookout, grilled portobello mushrooms make a great meat alternative because of their meaty-like flavor that research has shown increases satiety. To prepare, marinate the mushrooms in a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, and balsamic vinegar prior to grilling. Image courtesy of woodleywonderworks.

 

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Editor’s Extra: Fourth of July fruit kebobs
I made these for a cookout last year, and they were a hit! Simply cut the strawberries and bananas into pieces, then make a flag by sliding the fruit onto kebob skewers. Sweet, delicious, healthy, and festive!
 
Do you have any other waist-friendly Fourth of July sides? Share in the comments!

Science Says You Should Watch More Cat Videos

Lil Bub (whose owner Mike Bridavsky helped distribute the survey via social media). Image courtesy of Mike Bridavsky/www.lilbub.com

Lil BUB (whose owner Mike Bridavsky helped distribute the survey via social media). Image courtesy of Mike Bridavsky/www.lilbub.com

Cat videos were viewed almost 26 billion times on YouTube last year alone, so it is no surprise that almost everyone loves to watch furry felines, like Grumpy Cat or Lil BUB. However, science is giving us another reason to tune in – watching cat videos online actually boosts your energy and decreases your negative feelings, according to a new study.

Jessica Gall Myrick, an assistant professor at the Indiana University Media School, surveyed almost 7,000 people about how viewing cat videos affected their mood. After watching cat-related online media, participants said they felt more energetic and positive, and had fewer negative emotions, including anxiety, annoyance, and sadness.

Jessica Gall Myrick. Image courtesy of Indiana University.

Jessica Gall Myrick. Image courtesy of Indiana University.

Overall, the participants agreed that the pleasure they got from watching cat videos outweighed any guilt they felt about procrastinating (many watched videos at work or while studying). Myrick says the results suggest that future research could explore how online cat videos might be used as a form of low-cost pet therapy.

“If we want to better understand the effects the Internet may have on us as individuals and on society, then researchers can’t ignore Internet cats anymore,”stated Myrick in a press release.  “Even if they are watching cat videos on YouTube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward.”

To learn more about the study, it was published in the latest issue of Computers in Human Behavior.

ETE is the plate for better portion control

There are so many expensive calorie-counting, eating pace-controlling devices and apps out there now, but a new plate sticks to simple lines to help you eat healthier. ETE is a well-designed plate that keeps things old-school by using visual markers to make sure you’re eating well-balanced portions.

The plate, which was created by a Singapore-based team, has colorful lines that outline the ideal portion of food items per meal based on U.S. and European Union recommendations. The lines help people to visualize how much of certain things they should be eating. This is especially noticeable for vegetables, which are often absent from many meals.

ETE is designed to serve as a guide though rather than an ultimatum for every meal; as such, certain things, like dairy, are noticeably absent.

ETE plate is currently in the middle of its Indiegogo campaign, with over one-fifth of its funds raised in the first few days. One plate currently starts at $15 for the early bird price.

Disney’s Playmation Makes Combines Physical Play With High-Tech Adventures

A child plays with the Repulsor, part of the Playmation Marvel's Avengers starter pack.  GearFriday, May 15, 2015 in Encino, Calif. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Invision for Disney/AP Images)

A child plays with the Repulsor Gear, part of the Playmation Marvel’s Avengers starter pack. GearFriday, May 15, 2015 in Encino, Calif. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Invision for Disney/AP Images)

The Walt Disney Company has always sought to innovate the way stories are told and experienced, and the twenty-first century is no exception. In its quest to continue pushing the boundaries of storytelling, the company is introducing Playmation, a new technology that reinvents classic, make believe play.

Disney Consumer Products describes Playmation as “the next step in the evolution of play, where digital gets physical and imagination becomes real.” The system combines wearables for kids that interact with smart toys.

According to Disney, parents wanted kids to move around more, and Playmation is an answer to their plea. Like a real life video game, kids need to get moving as Jedi, Avengers, and Princesses if they want to defeat the bad guys and unlock new content.

Image created with Imgur meme generator. imgur.com/memegen

Image created with Imgur meme generator. imgur.com/memegen

“Innovation and creativity are the driving forces behind Disney, and our goal is to inspire children to unleash the power of their imaginations through the stories we tell and the experiences we create,” stated Leslie Ferraro, president of Disney Consumer Products, in a press release. “With Playmation, we’re taking the next step in that tradition – bringing the worlds of play, storytelling, and technology together – in a new and very exciting way.”

The Playmation line is a collaboration with Hasbro. The first line to be released is Marvel’s Avengers, with gear hitting stores this October (in time for the Christmas season of course with a price tag of $119.99)

Children (and adults) will first be able to get their hands in an Iron Man repulsor glove and follow Jarvis’ cue to defeat a classic villain. Star Wars and Frozen Playmation lines are also in the works for 2016 and 2017.

Continuing the high-tech tradition

Playmation doesn’t come too much as surprise because it draws upon the merging of art and science that Disney has always strived for. Recently, the company added the Magic Band to their Walt Disney World experience, which was also dreamed up by a team of technologists, Imagineers and storytellers from across Disney. Tomorrowland, which is in theaters, is also the first Dolby Vision theatrical release.

How To Pick The Right Brand Of Sunscreen

Image courtesy of Jeff Wilcox.

Image courtesy of Jeff Wilcox.

June means the official start of summer, whether you’re counting by the end of the school year or the official calendar date. Americans will trade in jackets for towels, and days cooped up for those spent lounging by the pool. But regardless of whether you’re wearing short shorts, a wide-brimmed sunhat, or stylish maxi dress, there’s one thing you should not leave the house without – sunscreen.

Chances are, if you’re like most Americans, you do just that. A recent study found that only 14% of men and 30% of women regularly wear sunscreen, putting themselves at risk for skin cancer.

The rate of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, has risen 250%  for children, adolescents, and young adults since 1973, according to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. And it doesn’t matter if you burn or not,  by not using sunscreen, you’re putting yourself at risk for cancer.

“Anyone can get skin cancer, so everyone should take steps to protect themselves from the sun,” stated Dr. Mark Lebwohl, president of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

So what is the ideal brand of sunscreen?

According to the AAD, it’s one that is broad-spectrum, water-resistant, and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Be sure the sunscreen says those words on the label, or else you may just be getting protection against sunburns and not against skin cancer and early aging.

Although the AAD’s website doesn’t list specific sunscreens, here are a few that meet that criteria: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer, Banana Boat Ultramist, Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Ultra Guard, Sun Bum Lip Balm.

You can learn more about picking the right sunscreen, preventing skin cancer, and sunscreen application tips on the AAD’s website.

Infographic courtesy of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Infographic courtesy of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Women’s Health Week: One Inspiring Organization and 5 Tips To Make Your Well-Being A Priority

Image courtesy of Heather Dowd.

Image courtesy of Heather Dowd.

Happy Women’s Health Week! I think everyone would say that health is a priority, but sometimes it can slip on your to-do list, especially you have 10 million other things going on. Women’s Health Week, which is celebrated May 10 – 16, is the perfect opportunity to make your well-being a priority again.

One key way to keep physically and mentally fit is to exercise, but women are half as likely to have exercised throughout their lives compared to men, according to a March survey. The results are a little depressing, so this Fitness Friday, we are profiling the organization This Girl Can, which wants to empower women of all ages, shapes, and sizes to get and stay active.

This Girl Can is based out of the U.K. wants women to realize that fear of judgement is not a reason avoid exercise. The organization’s social media channels provides encouragement for women across the globe who breaking a sweat.

The website itself features stories of women and their exercise of choice. And if you need to find your new favorite type of workout, This Girl Can has an A to Z guide that has details about different sports, how much they cost, what equipment they need, and why it’s good for you.

Want to make whole-body fitness a priority? Here are 5 tips.

  1. Meditate daily. It can only be 5 or 10 minutes, but it’s worth it. Meditating gives you the time, focus, and energy to get everything done on in your day. If you have to, get an app to remind you and stick to it. Learn more about meditation here.
  2. Find a workout you enjoy. I don’t care if you’ve been told crossfit/cycling/hot yoga/etc is the new, hottest, best workout. If you don’t like it, try something else. There are plenty of different types of exercise and don’t give up until you find one that works for you. After all, if you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stick with it. (Bonus points if you have a workout buddy.)
  3. See your doctor annually. It’s so easy to prioritize everyone’s health above your own, but taking the time to take care of yourself pays off in the long run. If absolutely have no time, consider using an e-service like Maven.
  4. Audit your eating. You don’t have to count every single calorie that goes down your throat, but you should take an audit every once in a while to make sure you’re on track. Use an app or look at the USDA’s recommended food plate, and see how close you’re coming to the guidelines. If you’re way off, think about ways to incorporate healthier foods into your day or consider a delivery service.
  5. Have fun! It’s 100% necessary to relax, indulge, laugh, and play. Have a cheat day, skip some chores, go on an adventure. If you try to live completely health-conscious 24/7, chances are it’ll end up stressing you out. Everyone needs a break sometimes; give yourself permission to let loose and have some fun every now and then.

What’s your favorite way to get and stay fit? Have another tip? Let us know in the comments.

Hate Needles? Two Devices Make Shots Tolerable

Over the past month, there have been two different devices targeting people who hate needles. If that sounds like you, listen up, because one could be on the market next year.

A Device That Vacuums Your Blood 

Tasso is creating a device that vacuums a small blood sample when held against the skin for two minutes. The idea is to make sampling less painful and more convenient.

Tasso uses a small vacuum to draw blood.

This prototype device is being developed into a fool-proof, almost painless way to draw blood samples by Tasso, formed by students of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Image courtesy of David Tenenbaum/UW-Madison.

The technology relies on the forces that govern the flow of tiny fluid streams and the blood collects in a sample that can be mailed off or brought to a lab.

“At these scales, surface tension dominates over gravity, and that keeps the blood in the channel no matter how you hold the device,” stated Ben Casavant, vice president and co-founder of Tasso, in a press release.

The company seems to be onto something with promise because the DARPA has just given Tasso an additional $3 million to fund work with companies that make blood preservatives. It also has funding from the National Institutes of Health to develop a method to diagnose HIV.

Tasso’s target audience are people who need tests regularly but not frequently as well as those who fear getting their blood drawn by more traditional methods.

“We see our specialty as people who need to test semi-frequently, or infrequently, to monitor cancer or chronic infectious diseases, for example,” Casavant said. “Instead of buying a machine or expensive equipment, we ship you this device, you put it on your arm for two minutes and send it back to the lab.”

If all goes well, Casavant says, the company will send its application to the FDA at the end of 2015, and the device will reach the market during 2016.

The 3-D Printed Gadget That Numbs An Injection Site

Three freshmen engineers at Rice University have created a 3-D printed device that numbs skin before an injection.  The team has a functioning prototype that can cool a small area in about one minute, which is significantly shorter than current numbing methods, such as creams.

In a YouTube video, the creators explain their device is targeted to those who are more sensitive to pain, like kids and the elderly, and for sites where injections hurt more, like the face or groin. .

According to a Rice article, the freshmen specifically designed the device not to be reusable because injections are such a common procedure. Luckily, they created the device with relatively common and inexpensive materials, and each one costs about $2 to make.

The team is applying for a patent, and they are open to continuing the project and perhaps starting a company.

5 Reasons To Meditate Daily [Infographic]

Meditation has countless health benefits, including the following five.

Reasons to Meditate

Ready to start meditating? There are plenty of apps and services to help you get into a routine, including the highly-reviewed Calm and Headpsace. Read more of the editor’s take on meditation (and other) apps here.

Learn more about the science behinds the facts: reduces stress, keeps your brain sharp, alleviates chronic pain, improves focus, helps you sleep better.

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