Blog posts of '2012' 'August'



            It’s that time again. No, I’m not referring to those pre-dawn wake-up calls, rushing your kids to school on time, or shopping for school supplies. I’m referring to the time your kids complain to you about their backs hurting again. Unfortunately, your child’s time in school, when you can’t observe, is likely injuring his or her back. And, children with back pain are proven to have a higher likelihood of developing back pain as an adult. The good news: there are easy steps to ensure your child doesn’t hurt his or her back during their school day.

Step 1:  Make sure your child carries less than 10% of his or her bodyweight in a backpack

Children are likely to suffer from upper and mid back pain if they repeatedly carry greater than 10% of their body weight in backpacks over their shoulders. There is a correlation between backpack weight (greater than 10%) and an increase in missed school days. And, as mentioned, children with back pain are more likely to develop back pain as an adult. Luckily, there is an easy solution:  keep less than 10% of your child’s bodyweight in the backpack!

Step 2:  Carry backpack loads correctly

Evidence shows that there is a particular way to carry objects in your backpack based on the environment in which you are walking. If you are walking over “rough ground,” you should carry the load of your backpack at the very bottom of the pack. If you are walking over “smooth ground,” carry the load high in your pack. The different walking environments produce varying stresses on the body. Placing the loads to accommodate the terrain can prevent back problems. Obviously, your child is walking over “smooth ground” at school, so keep the loads high in the backpack.  

Step 3:  Make sure your child walks correctly

According to research, walking quickly, as opposed to a slower walking pace, leads to a shorter recovery time for low back disorders and aids in prevention of future problems. Conversely, walking slowly may actually cause low back problems and worsen the symptoms of a current problem.

Step 4:  Sit Properly

Believe it or not, the perfect seated position is one that changes. There is no ideal seated position, because it is the act of sitting that is inherently bad. However, your child is most likely not allowed to get up and move around, while sitting in class. In this situation, there is a way to sit that will do the least amount of harm. To clarify, this advice applies to the person who is not able to stand up and stretch for a rest break. In this instance, the perfect seated position involves having perfect posture. Perfect posture starts with your child keeping a balanced head. A balanced head is in neutral position, meaning it’s not too far forward or backward. Neutral position involves a slight chin tuck—almost as if you are on the verge of a double-chin, but not as extreme.

The back is erect with the shoulders pulled back, hips are moved backward at 90 degrees (avoiding a “C-shaped” hump in the low back), feet are flat on the floor, shoulders are not shrugged, elbows are at 90 degrees and wrists are not bent. If you child isn’t working at a computer, you need not worry about your elbows and wrists. It is critical to prevent slouching.

Dr. Zumstein is the author of Secrets to Preventing Back and Neck Pain:  60 Ways to Protect Your Spine and the founder of The Back Safety & Wellness Consultants. You can find his book, information about his company, or sign up for his free newsletter at

KINESIOTAPE: What it is, what it does, and the research behind it- Tuesday, August 7, 2012

KINESIOTAPE: What it is, what it does, and the research behind it

Have you suffered a recent muscular injury or know someone who has? Do you watch the Olympics? If you answered yes to either question, then you probably already know what kinesiotape is, and have likely seen it. But if you don’t know, kinesiotape (KT) is a popular palliative measure now used by most healthcare practitioners to speed up the recovery of a muscular injury. KT is the colored strip(s) of material that many athletes, particularly Olympians, wear while competing. Kinesiotape differs from “athletic tape” because the kinesiotape is more flexible and supposedly allows the athlete to maintain a full range of motion while using it. Kinesiotape is popular and fairly ubiquitous, but does it work?

There are many hypotheses as to how kinesiotape works. Some believe that the tape mimics human touch, and its application tricks the body into forgetting the pain to focus on the perception of “touch.” Others believe that the tape brings increased blood flow to the area and speeds up recovery, while a third belief is that the tape is purely psychological: the patient is more aware of the injury when it is taped, and is subsequently more cautious.

We can sit around and guess all day but here is some research:

1. A study published in 2008 (Thelen, Mark, MD. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Jul; 38[7]:389-95) took 42 participants with shoulder impingement/rotator cuff tendonitis. It investigated kinesiotape’s effect on active ranges of motion on these 42 participants. Results showed that the participants using the KT had an increased, pain-free range of motion compared to those who didn’t use the KT. The study concluded that kinesiotape may assist in improving a pain-free, active range of motion.

2. A second study (Gonzalez—Iglesias, J. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009 Jul;39[7]:515-21) looked at 42 people with neck pain. This study sought to find if kinesiotape can affect pain levels and active ranges of motion in the necks of the participants. Results indicated that the kinesiotape led to statistically significant improvements in whiplash-associated disorders, but minimal improvements in pain and ranges of motion.

3. Study number three (Fu, TC and AM Wong. J Sci Med Sport. 2008 Apr;11[2]:198-201. Epub 2007 Jun 27) is a pilot study that investigated the effect of KT on athlete’s muscle strength. Of the 14 healthy athletes used in the study, none demonstrated changes in their muscle strength (either an increase or decrease) as a result of using kinesiotape.

Based on the aforementioned research studies, we can conclude that kinesiotape doesn’t significantly affect overall pain levels or strength, but does seem to positively affect pain-free, active, ranges of motion. The studies didn’t discuss the physiological reasoning behind KT’s ability to improve active ranges of motion, so that debate will continue. Although I didn’t find any studies investigating the psychological effect of KT, I believe it does make the patient more aware of their injury, and thus more cautious.

In summary, it appears KT does not affect overall pain levels, but likely improves a pain-free active range of motion, which is highly beneficial to anyone, especially athletes. No wonder so many athletes—particularly Olympians—use it!