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.


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.

Image created with Imgur meme generator.

“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.

Coming Soon: Apps That Let Kids Design And 3D-Print Toys

Image courtesy of Creative Tools.

Image courtesy of Creative Tools.

Kids have a new way to express their creativity, thanks to a partnership between Mattel and Autodesk. Soon, kids and kids-at-heart will be able to use a series of apps to customize toys and then 3D-print them.

The goal of the partnership is to provide a new immersive experience by combining physical toys with digital adventures, with the goal of pushing the boundaries of creative play. The initiative also wants kids to learn while they play and customize.

The first in a series of new apps and an online hub for Mattel’s 3D-printing initiatives are scheduled to launch in the second half of 2015, but both companies are keeping mum on the details. Autodesk revealed that more information will come out on a later date.

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.

Standing Desks May Be Coming To A Classroom Near You

Standing desks are becoming more popular at offices, and now they're coming to schools.

Standing desks are becoming more popular at offices, and now they’re coming to schools.

The traditional classroom is getting a redesign at one California elementary school. Beginning next school year, all of the classrooms will have standing desks.

Standing desks have been shown to increase focus and burn more calories, making them a popular substitution for a traditional desk at forward-thinking workplaces. That got two health-focused, entrepreneurial parents wondering why their kids didn’t have standing desks at school, so they spearheaded an effort to put standing desks in some classrooms.

They succeeded, and four classes at Vallecito Elementary in San Rafael, CA, got standing for this school year. The desks have a “fidget bar” underneath that kids can rest their foot on and swing, and kids can grab a stool if they’re tired. The students also don’t stand all day and sit for certain activities like lunch or specific lessons.

Teachers, kids, and parents seem to be enjoying the change-of-pace, and most students stand the whole day. Teachers say that kids are able to focus better, and parents report that kids are sleeping better, according to a Daily News article.

In fact, the test-run has been so successful that the school is putting standing desks into all of the elementary school’s classrooms next year. And those two parents who started the effort? They’re now running an organization called Stand Up Kids with the goal of putting standing desks in every school

What do you think – would you want your kids to have standing desks? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Kurbo Helps Kids Eat Healthier

Kurbo encourages kids, teens, and their parents to learn about nutrition and eat healthier. Images courtesy of Kurbo.

Kurbo encourages kids, teens, and their parents learn about nutrition. Images courtesy of Kurbo.

Trying to eat healthier is a challenge for adults, and even more so for children and teens. With rising rates of obesity, highly processed school lunches, and more people staying sedentary, there are so many challenges kids (and adults) face when trying to get and stay healthy. Kurbo wants to help.

Kurbo is a mobile app that helps kids and teens make smarter food choices. Unlike calorie-counting systems, Kurbo uses a “traffic light diet” developed by Stanford scientists. The app groups foods into red, yellow, and green categories based on how good they are for you.


The  diet encourages users to consumer fewer “reds,” which includes processed foods or ones that are high in sugar and fat; eat “yellows,” like whole grain breads, in moderation; and go all-out for nutritious “green” choices like fruits and vegetables.

The app sets a goal number of “red” foods per week, and kids are encouraged to log they traffic light color of the foods they eat as they go. Like Weight Watchers, Kurbo does not restrict any foods. Kids can still have sweets and treats, but are reminded to eat them more mindfully. And the reviews for the system are positive – even from adults who want to eat better.

The Android and iOS version of the apps are free to download and for the first week, but you’re charged for a personal coach there after. Plans range from $25/month to $75/month depending on how interactive coaching you’d like.

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Have A Fever? STEMP Sends You A Notification.

STEMP automatically monitors a sick child's temperature. Images courtesy of STEMP.

STEMP automatically monitors a sick child’s temperature. Images courtesy of STEMP.

I didn’t think the thermometer was outdated… until I saw STEMP. STEMP is the smart temperature patch that is changing the way we take our temperatures. It sticks on like a bandaid and can continuously monitor your temperature or that of a loved one.

The founders of STEMP are parents who wanted a better way to look after their sick children instead of getting up to take their temperature every hour. So they created a digital sensor with a disposable stick-on patch that alerts parents when a child’s temperature spikes or drops.

STEMP is waterproof and adheres like a bandaid.

STEMP is waterproof and adheres like a bandaid.

The sensor uses bluetooth to push notifications to your phone (currently only for iPhones). It also has an app tracks temperatures over time. The data can be saved or shared with someone like a physician or caregiver.

Although STEMP is kid-friendly (aka waterproof), anyone can use it. The STEMP founders believe the patch can be valuable to those who need to monitor a chronic condition, are trying to conceive, care for elderly, or just want to monitor their everyday health.

As many of you know, I’m a skeptic until I read the reviews, but STEMP is already on its way to proving itself. It was the winner for personal health at the 2015 CES Everyday Health Awards for Innovation , a finalist for digital health and life science technologies at the 2015 SXSW Innovation Accelerator, and a finalist for the 2014 USAID Fighting Ebola Innovation Accelerator.

The public must believe in STEMP, too, because it just wrapped up a successful Indiegogo campaign yesterday. The funds will be used to manufacture STEMP, create Android and iPad/Apple Watch compatibility, and more. Pre-ordered patches are expected to ship this fall.

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Facebook Grows Up: How To Create Subpages For Your Kids

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Facebook Grows Up: How To Create Subpages For Your Kids

You can now save all the pictures of your kid in one special place on your Facebook page.

With scrapbook, you can save all the pictures of your kid in one place. Image courtesy of Facebook.

Facebook started out for fun-loving college students, but in a sign that the demographic is changing, the social network is adding a new setting called scrapbook.

Scrapbook allows partners to tag pictures of their little loved one and store them all on one page. The photos appear in their own section on your timeline, as a way for friends, family, and yourself to easily go back and look at pictures of your precious little humans.

Parents can create a scrapbook for anyone under 13, the age at which new users can register for their own Facebook page page.  You can create your own scrapbook or co-own them with a partner that you’re listed as in a relationship with on Facebook.

Scrapbooks are more selective than actual pages and have increased security settings.  For example, instead of just naming the tag after the person, you can also name it something creative, like initials or a nickname, if you don’t want to put your child’s name on Facebook. Additionally, only the partners who created the scrapbook can tag pictures of the child for now.

Although the setting is catered toward little humans, I imagine that Facebook stop won’t stop anyone from tagging pictures of a dog or other furry creature that is practically their child anyway.

How To Create Subpages For Your Kids
1. Click About on your profile page.
2. Click on Family and Relationships
3. There’s now an invitation to create a scrapbook. Click on Get Started.
4. (Facebook walks you through) Add your child as a relationship to you on Facebook.
5. (Facebook walks you through) Let your partner tag your child, too.

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Two Technologies Making The Roads Safer

New Teen Driver features. Image copyright General Motors.

New Teen Driver features. Image copyright General Motors.

I’m sure everyone has been personally affected in some way, shape, or form by automobile accidents. Whether it’s teens who were still new behind the wheel or someone who was trying to sneak in a quick text, we are all familiar with tragic stories of those who died or were seriously injured in a car accident.

Fortunately, there are new safety features coming to cars that may make the roads a little bit safer for everyone.

1. A dashboard designed specifically for teen drivers. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. – that’s a scary statistic. In the U.S. alone, an average of seven teens die in a crash every single day. These deaths are preventable, too, and Chevrolet is hoping to bring the rate of reckless teen driving down by adding new safety features to their 2016 Malibu.

Through the Teen Driver mode, parents can set a maximum speed limit. If a teen goes over that allotted mph, they get a warning, and soon the car will also be able to alert parents when their child speeds.

Additionally, the radio will not start until the driver’s seatbelt is buckled. This is especially important because 55% of teens who die in a crash are not wearing seat belts.

The safety features also include statistics about the distance teens drove, any over-speed warnings issued, forward collision alerts, forward collision braking events, and antilock brake events. Teen Driver is set to launch on April 1.

Teen Driver will be available in 2016 Chevrolet Malibus. Image copyright General Motors.

Teen Driver will be available in 2016 Chevrolet Malibus. Image copyright General Motors.

2. A device that won’t let you drink and drive. If you thought the teen driving statistics were scary (and they are!), they’re just as – if not more – grim for driving while impaired. In the U.S., an average of 30 people die per day because of impaired driving. That’s one death every 51 minutes.

A new study found that 59,000 lives could be saved by adding a required safety feature that shuts off an engine if the driver’s blood alcohol content is over the U.S. legal limit of .08*. That’s an 85% decrease in the amount of deaths by drunk drivers.

All of this is why a Congress-backed program called Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS)  is so important. The program is a collaboration by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety to research technologies that will detect if a driver’s BAC is over the legal limit and prevent their car from starting.

DADSS was started in 2008, but in 2013 it began a new phase that will field test two different types of technologies to prevent drunk driving.

The first is a breath-based system that measures carbon dioxide and alcohol concentrations from inside the vehicle. As their website says, “The system will be designed to take instantaneous, unobtrusive readings as the driver breathes normally and to accurately and reliably distinguish between the driver’s breath and that of the passengers.”

The second is a touch-based system that uses spectrometry and light absorption to detect blood alcohol levels. DADSS says, “The goal is to integrate this system into current vehicle controls, such as the start button or steering wheel, and to take multiple, accurate readings in less than a second. ”

The goal of the project is to get these technologies developed, tested, and put into cars for drivers who want them, helping to make the roads safer for everyone.

Screenshot of the DADSS website.

Screenshot of the DADSS website.

While all of these impending technologies are great, it’s always best to do things like not text/drink and drive, wear seatbelts, and not speed anyway. *Drinking and driving is never a good idea, and in many countries it is illegal to drive after drinking at all. Even though the U.S. even has one of the highest permissible BAC levels in the world, please, for everyone’s sake, don’t drink and drive.

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Kolibree Makes Brushing Your Teeth Fun

Kolibree's app and smart toothbrush.

Kolibree’s app and smart toothbrush.

Let’s face it. Brushing and flossing are a boring but essential part of keeping healthy, and most parents say it’s easier to get their young ones to eat their veggies than brush their teeth. However, now there is a new toothbrush that literally turns the whole process into a game.

Go! Pirate app for the Kolibree toothbrush.

Go! Pirate app for the Kolibree toothbrush.

Kolibree is a smart toothbrush that pairs with mobile apps to create a better brushing experience. The apps, which are timed for a full two-minute brush, instruct where and how you should brush in visual, creative ways.

While some apps are more basic (read boring), others are interactive games where your brushing directly effects your experience. For example, Go! Pirate is a Temple Run-like game where you move your character and collect coins by properly brushing different sections of your teeth.

The toothbrush syncs with your phone over Bluetooth to store your brushing info and game data. And if you have a particularly competitive housemates, the app features a  leaderboard featuring those with the best brushing skills.

The brush isn’t available for pre-orders just yet, but you can still learn more at their website. The brushes, charges, and one head will retail for $199, and according to CNET, it will be available this fall.

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