Spinal Dynamics of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Backpack Tips for Back to School

It’s almost that time again. If your child’s back to school shopping list includes a new backpack, make sure it fits correctly. A poor fitting pack can be a pain in the neck (or back).

Learn tips and tricks for making your backpack (and back to school) as pain free as possible.

  1. Fit: Make sure that it is the right size. The backpack should be centered on the torso and should not hang below the low back. A smaller child will need a smaller backpack.
  2. Straps: Backpacks allow you to distribute the weight between both shoulders. A one-strap pack or messenger bag often forces the carrier to lean or shrug to avoid slipping of the strap, which can lead to pain. Shoulder straps should be wide, comfortable and padded. Make sure they use both straps; straps should be snug enough to keep it in place, but loose enough to get the backpack on and off easily.
  3. Load: Keep the heaviest objects (e.g. textbooks) in the pockets closest to the back, rather than in the outer pockets. This helps to keep the load closer to your child’s center of gravity and makes the load easier to carry. Compression straps along the side can also help stabilize the contents.
  4. Weight: Try to keep the weight of the backpack to 15% of the child’s body weight or less. A study by Goodgold et al. found that 55% of students carry a backpack that weighs more than the recommended 15% of their body weight. Have your child clean out the backpack on a weekly basis and make sure they are only carrying the supplies they need for that day. An extra book or two adds up quickly, especially if the child needs to walk to and from home or the bus stop.
  5. Extra Credit: Use the chest and waist straps to help offload the shoulders and back.

Keep your kids healthy! If your child is complaining of back to school pain or headaches, it could be related to prolonged sitting at school or while doing homework, poor posture or their backpack. One of our physical therapists can help your son or daughter learn strategies to stretch, strengthen and adjust their posture to make back to school as pain free as possible.

Source: Goodgold S., Corcoran M., Gamache D., Gillis J., Guerin J., Coyle J. Q. Backpack use in children. Pediatric Physical Therapy. 2002;14(3):122–131. doi: 10.1097/00001577-200214030-00002.

Spinal Dynamics of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

5 Quick Fixes for Improving Your Desk Posture

Sitting all day can be rough. Prolonged sitting with poor posture can influence neck pain, shoulder pain, and headaches, among other conditions. In the course of history, “desk jobs” are a relatively new phenomenon and humans are really not built to sit all day long, five days a week. Unfortunately, the vast majority of jobs now involve a lot of sedentary time. 

Because of these issues, standing desks and treadmill desks are getting more common. Even if you don’t have access to a standing workstation, making small changes in your work day can help to ease the pain of prolonged sitting.

Good posture

Matt demonstrating good desk posture with feet flat, sitting on his sit bones, shoulder blades back and away from ears, and his lumbar spine supported by his chair.

1. Adjust your workstation.

Your feet should be flat. It is almost impossible to sit with good posture when your legs are crossed or tucked under you. 

You should be sitting on your “sit bones” under your bottom, not on your tailbone. 

Your chair should help to support your low back. If helpful, you can use a small towel roll at the small of your back to help you maintain the slight curve through your lower back.

Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic with specific information on adjusting different parts of your workstation.

2. Sit tall and relax your shoulder blades away from your ears. Your neck should feel long, with your ears in line with your shoulders. Avoid slumping into a rounded back and forward head position, seen in the second picture.

3. Watch your posture while you’re using the phone. Make sure that you aren’t resting your elbow on your desk or shrugging to hold the phone between your ear and shoulder. If you are on the phone frequently during the day, consider investing in a headset to assist you in maintaining good posture.

Not-so-great posture.

Rounded back + forward head = increased strain through neck, upper back and shoulder blade muscles.

4. Take frequent breaks! Try to get up and move around at least once an hour, whether you go grab a drink of water, go to the bathroom, or just take a short walk around the office.

5. Find some sort of reminder during the day to check and reset your posture during work or meetings. Find something that happens frequently during the day — whether it is an email popup alert, Googling something, or opening a specific application. Start getting in the habit of resetting your posture each time you do one of those things to help you minimize the time you spend slouched during the day.

Adjusting your posture is challenging, but small changes can add up to make a big difference. Tried these tips and still having pain or headaches during or after work? Give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists to help you improve your pain, posture and function.

Spinal Dynamics of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month!

By: Cindy Marti, PT – Owner & President of Spinal Dynamics & Body Dynamics of Wisconsin

Last week, my fellow scoliosis physical therapist, Meg Gogin, and I attended the annual meeting of scoliosis clinicians and researchers from around the world. The Society of Scoliosis Orthopedic Rehabilitation and Treatment (SOSORT) conference was held in Banff, Canada. We learned a lot and enjoyed hikes in the mountains in our free time.

Personal Highlights:


Visit the Canadian Rockies if you can! See Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and hike up Sulphur Mountain in Banff. You will be mesmerized. Take the scenic route A1 from Lake Louise back to Banff to see if you can catch a view of a romping bear. We did! The Hoodoo trail is full of elk…beware! I got too close to one and had a good scare when she threatened me! People there are incredibly friendly and make it easy to be comfortable in their town.

Amy, Cindy, Meg.jpg

And, if you are wondering about Canadian beer…I recommend the Big Rock Traditional Amber, known to locals as “Trad”. If you like amber ales, you will like this!

Clinical Highlights:

Research is improving our understanding of factors that contribute to the cause and progression of adolescent scoliosis. The cause is thought to be multi-factorial–meaning that it is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, neurological, and biomechanical variables. There was a landmark study presented at this meeting suggesting that vitamin D and calcium supplements can reduce the rate of curve progression in patients with scoliosis. This is new information and we will use it to support our patients here in the clinic by having blood work done to evaluate the possibility of adding supplements to their bracing and rehabilitation regimes.

New studies were presented that reinforced past research that BRACING WORKS and SCOLIOSIS-SPECIFIC THERAPY can help bracing. There were also interesting presentations on the treatment of adults with scoliosis, showing encouraging outcomes for these patients being treated with Physiologic Scoliosis-Specific Exercise (PSSE). When PSSE is combined with additional therapy, patients can improve their aesthetics and quality of life. We have known this to be true at Spinal Dynamics & Body Dynamics of Wisconsin for many years, but it is encouraging to see more research backing up our clinical findings.

Professional Highlights:

I was happy to be a part of the meeting, running a couple of panel discussions about the treatment of scoliosis in adolescents and adults. I am slowly getting over my nerves in being up in front of so many brilliant minds. I also just finished my two-year term on the SOSORT Board of Directors and am now co-chair of the education committee. I am happy to have made many professional friends through this group, and am continually inspired by their dedication to the treatment of scoliosis.

Cindy with SOSORT board.jpg

We also had a RECORD number of Schroth-BSPTS certified physical therapists attending the annual SOSORT meeting. I am an instructor with BSPTS (Barcelona Scoliosis Physical Therapy School) and it was inspiring to see so many of our past graduates at the conference. It feels great to be having an impact in the field.

Scoliosis is a challenging condition, that often creates confusion and anxiety in the patients themselves, in their families, and yes – even sometimes in the clinicians treating it. Scoliosis has been treated innovatively and successfully without surgery in many parts of the world for decades. In the US, we are just beginning to make strides for change in the last 5-10 years, getting more physicians on board with early detection and early intervention, and in educating more therapists to teach scoliosis-specific exercise. We still have a long way to go to get EVERY child access to the care that can help them…and get them access BEFORE their curves progress in severity. If you or someone you know is living with scoliosis, please let us know if we can help.

Thanks for reading. Meg and I are all fired up from our mountain experience, and ready to get back in the clinic! Happy June!