Brown Bag Lunch Lessons for Parents

It’s a fact—school lunches are getting healthier. New nutritional standards for school lunches are raising the bar and more Americans are seeing the difference. A national poll by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently found that:

  • 86% of Americans support the nutritional standards required by the law.
  • Two-thirds of Americans say the nutritional quality of food served in public school cafeterias is excellent or good, which is up from 26% when a similar poll was conducted in 2010, prior to new standards being adopted.

Hopefully, the days of serving unappetizing, poor quality food with too much fat, sugar and salt in school cafeterias are largely behind us. However, this is NOT to say that parents can’t do an even better job themselves by sending their kids to school with even healthier alternatives. But (of course) this raises a couple of practical questions. What should we actually pack in their lunch boxes? And how do we get them to eat it?

Is school lunch really worth the bother?

We think the short answer is yes. So do the vast majority of Americans. The same W.K. Kellogg Foundation survey mentioned earlier found that 93% of those surveyed believe that it is very important or somewhat important to serve nutritious foods in schools to support children’s health and capacity to learn. Numerous studies have shown that kids who eat nutritionally balanced lunches do better in class and miss fewer days of school because of illness. Balanced lunches that include foods from each of the major food groups help kids keep their energy levels up during the long school day and prevent sluggishness and afternoon “drop outs” due to low blood sugar.

Fortunately, there are dozens of websites on the Internet that serve up tasty and nutritional school lunch ideas for kids of various ages. All you need to do is to search in your favorite browser for “healthy school lunch ideas” and you’ll have hundreds of new choices at your fingertips. Here are a few general ideas just to get you started:

  • Try to include at least three of the four major food groups—grains and breads, meats, milk and dairy, and fruits and vegetables—in each meal. A balance of carbohydrates, protein, fats and other nutrients will help your student perform at his or her best at school and provide a strong nutritional foundation.
  • Consider alternatives to the same (to kids) boring old sandwiches. Try using bagels, pita bread, sourdough rolls, or prepare “roll ups” using flour or corn tortillas. Instead of processed meats and cheese slices, use cookie cutters to cut up healthier meats and cheeses that you prepare yourself at home. Offering a variety of interesting flavors, shapes and sizes is one key to getting your kids to actually eat what you pack for them.
  • Encourage your kids to be part of the lunch-planning and lunch-preparation process. This provides a great hands-on opportunity for you to teach them more about nutrition. Plus, they’ll be more likely to eat and enjoy lunches that they helped to choose or prepare.
  • If your kids are prone to snacking, include healthy snacks like dried fruits and nuts. Instead of pre-packaged crackers and cheese, consider making your own, using healthier whole-grain crackers and real cheeses.
  • Consider creating a “dipping lunch” with ingredients that are all bite-sized and can be dipped in a sauce or two. You can package up the various ingredients in inexpensive plastic containers. For example, you can combine carrot and celery sticks with a ranch dressing dip or strips of chicken with a tasty honey-mustard sauce. Cottage cheese, yogurt, guacamole, or hummus can also be healthy dips.
  • Soups and stews also make great sandwich alternatives. All it takes is a good thermos and a spoon.

These are just a few ideas for “spicing up” your children’s school lunches. Use them as a starting point for building your own menu. Work with your kids to find the things they like best, and chances are they’ll eat them AND enjoy them!

NOVA Chiropractic & Wellness Center
8992 Fern Park Drive BurkeVA22015 USA 
 • (703) 912-7822

Physical Education Under Pressure: A Note to Parents

Chiropractor in Burke, VAAt many schools, a renewed focus on “back-to-basics” academic performance and recession-era budget cuts have curtailed recess, physical education and athletics (both intramural and competitive) over the past few years. While there’s no doubt that school districts are being forced to make some very tough choices, it’s also very clear that high rates of childhood obesity and chronic health conditions among young people make physical education a cornerstone priority.

Why We Need PhysEd Now More Than Ever

Studies have shown that children who get sufficient amounts of regular physical activity each day are not only less likely to become obese, but show better attention and concentration in the classroom, behave better, and score higher on tests. However, the sedentary lifestyle of many adults has now trickled down to our kids, who are by and large less likely to be physically active at home than prior generations were. Not surprisingly, this is affecting their overall level of fitness. The effect becomes more pronounced as children get older and really comes into focus when they reach high school. A recent story that appeared on the U.S. News and World Report Health website (“U.S. Teens’ Cardiorespiratory Fitness Has Dropped in Last Decade: Report”) noted that “The overall percentage of fit teens went from 52.4 percent in 1999 to 42.2 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paints a grim picture. Perhaps the most telling statistics are the ones that highlight just how little physical activity most children get by the time they become teenagers. Here’s the situation by the numbers…

About Participation in Physical Activity by Young People:

  • “In a nationally representative survey, 77% of children aged 9–13 years reported participating in free-time physical activity during the previous 7 days.”
  • “In 2013, only 29% percent of high school students had participated in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on each of the 7 days before the survey.”
  • “15.2% percent of high school students had not participated in 60 or more minutes of any kind of physical activity on any day during the 7 days before the survey.”
  • “Participation in physical activity declines as young people age.”

About Participation in Physical Education Classes:

  • “In 2013, less than half (48%) of high school students (64% of 9th-grade students but only 35% of 12th-grade students) attended physical education classes in an average week.”
  • “The percentage of high school students who attended physical education classes daily decreased from 42% in 1991 to 25% in 1995 and remained stable at that level until 2013 (29%).”
  • “In 2013, 42% of 9th-grade students but only 20% of 12th-grade students attended physical education class daily.”

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a very large gender gap in high school when it comes to both physical activity and participation in physical education classes:

  • In 2013, boys were more than twice as likely (36.6%) to be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day than girls (17.7%).
  • In 2013, boys were significantly more likely (34.9%) to attend daily physical education classes than girls (24.0%).

What Should Parents Expect From a PhysEd Curriculum?

As important as physical education is for a child’s development, the federal government has set no binding physical education curriculum standards and does not mandate the amount of time children must spend in physical activity. The government leaves it up to individual states and local school districts to decide on an appropriate physical education curriculum. Needless to say, this leads to a patchwork of approaches, some of which are naturally more effective than others.

The government suggests that children get at least 60 minutes of physical exercise each day to maintain optimal health and establish good exercise habits that will hopefully continue throughout adulthood. However, only 74.5% of states require physical education in school from elementary school through high school. In addition, 28 states allow physical education exemptions and waivers, and schools are required to allot a specific amount of time for physical activity in only 22 states. Only New Jersey, Louisiana and Florida mandate the suggested minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical education in elementary school. And for high schools, only West Virginia, Utah and Montana mandate the recommended minimum of 225 minutes per week of physical education.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses the importance of children having access to high-quality physical education. The national standards can be found in the book by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), Moving Into the Future: National Standards for Physical Education. NASPE suggests that a basic physical education curriculum should incorporate the following 6 standards:

Standard 1: Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.

Standard 2: Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.

Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.

Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.

Standard 5: Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings.

Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.

What Parents Can Do

If you have school-age children (especially in middle school or high school), it’s important to understand the physical education curriculum and to encourage them to participate actively. This is particularly true if they aren’t involved in athletics or other physically demanding activities at home. Paying attention to the grade they receive in physical education classes and getting meaningful feedback from their physical education teacher can help you learn how your children view physical activity and whether they are developing attitudes and habits that will serve them well over their lifetime.

Back-to-School Backpack Basics

Chiropractor in Burke, VAAmerican kids are suffering from back pain and neck pain earlier in their lives and in larger numbers than ever before. And if you’re a parent of school-age children, it’s important for you to know that overweight, improperly designed, and misused backpacks may be one of the big reasons for this growing problem.

This isn’t really news. The truth is that healthcare researchers and practitioners around the world have recognized the issue for a long time and have continued to call attention to it. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that a backpack should not be any heavier than 15% of a child’s body weight, but:

  • In 1999, researchers in Italy reported that about 35% of Italian schoolchildren carried more than 30% of their body weight at least once a week—actually exceeding the limits recommended for adults. The average sixth grader’s backpack was the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man or a 29-pound burden for a 132-pound woman. And of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60% had experienced back pain as a result.
  • As early as 2001, researchers at Simmons College in Massachusetts found that 55% of the 345 children they studied were carrying backpacks that exceeded the recommended weight limit, often by a substantial amount. One third of those students said that they had already experienced back pain.
  • A 2012 study by researchers in Spain found that 61.4% of 1403 students between the ages of 12 and 17 carried backpacks that weighed more than 10% of their body weight and that those carrying the heaviest backpacks had a 50% higher risk of back pain.

More than Just a Short-Term Health Risk

With an estimated 40 million school-age children carrying backpacks in America, it’s not at all surprising that there are some book bag-related injuries every year. Since 2000, the U.S. Product Safety Commission has reported that children and their backpacks make roughly 7,000 trips to the emergency room annually. However, many observers believe that the real toll is actually far higher since the vast majority of such injuries go unreported and many kids are treated by a family doctor or not treated at all.

It’s not clear how many acute injuries actually result from wearing backpacks as opposed to tripping over them or being hit by them. However, doctors who treat back problems regularly—especially chiropractic physicians—see worrying signs that heavier backpacks are setting the stage for more serious health issues in the future, including chronic back, neck and shoulder pain. Some chiropractors estimate that as many as 75% to 80% of the teenage patients they treat have postural problems directly related to overweight backpacks. This is one reason why the American Chiropractic Association advises parents to limit the weight of a child’s backpack to no more than 5% to 10% of body weight.

What’s Behind the Heavier Backpacks?

In an age of online education and mobile devices, you might be tempted to think that kids’ backpacks would be getting lighter. Not so. Across the past ten years, several factors have come together to increase the amount of weight young students are carrying in their book bags:

  • Increases in the amount of homework being assigned to students at a younger age typically mean more heavy books carried between home and school.
  • A trend toward removing lockers and individual desks from schools in many cases requires kids to carry all their belongings with them during the day.
  • Reduced time between classes or fewer trips to the locker can mean heavier loads for students.
  • Longer school days or increased participation in before-school and after-school activities often translates into more supplies and equipment as well as more time wearing the backpack.A good quality backpack with proper ergonomic features doesn’t have to be expensive. They’re available at many sporting goods stores and discount outlets. Experts offer the following advice:

How to Choose the Right Backpack and Use it Correctly

  • Get the size and fit right first. The right backpack should fit between the top of your child’s shoulders and lower back. Bigger is not better, since having more space available creates the potential for a heavier backpack.
  • Find one with shoulder straps that are wide, padded and adjustable. These distribute the weight more broadly across the shoulders and chest while allowing the backpack to be fitted snuggly to your child’s body.
  • For older students, consider a backpack with chest straps and a hip belt. Chest straps and a hip belt redistribute weight even further and bring the pack closer to the wearer’s body.
  • Look for a padded back that will add comfort and protection.
  • Choose a backpack with multiple smaller compartments. These help distribute the weight inside the bag and keep it stable.

Once your child has the right bag, it’s just as important to encourage him or her to use it correctly. Chiropractors and physical therapists generally agree that means wearing it on both shoulders with the straps tightened so that it hangs no more than four inches below the waist.

Recognizing the Warning Signs

If you see any of the following signs, it may be time to lighten the load, help your child choose a different backpack or talk about how it’s being used.

  • Pain in the back, neck, shoulders or knees
  • Red marks left on shoulders by backpack straps
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Trouble getting the backpack on or off
  • Bending forward or “hunching over” to shift weight from the shoulders to the back

Asking Your Chiropractor for Help

Under normal circumstances, using a backpack shouldn’t cause any pain or discomfort. If your child is showing signs of back, neck or should pain, we encourage you to call or visit our office today. In addition to addressing any current problems that your child may be experiencing, your chiropractor in Burke, VA can recommend an exercise program designed to strengthen muscles, and improve posture and coordination.

Is Sitting BAD for My Back?

Chiropractor in Burke, VAA major manufacturer of workstations reports that 86% of work computer users have to sit all day, and when they do rise from sitting, more than half (56%) use food as the excuse to get up and move. In addition to sitting at work, for meals, and commuting to/from work, 36% sit another one to two hours watching TV, 10% sit one to two hours for gaming, 25% sit one to two hours for reading/lounging, and 29% use their home computer for one to two hours. In summary, the average American sits for thirteen hours a day and sleep for eight hours. That’s a total of 21 hours a day off their feet!

The manufacturer’s survey also notes 93% of work computer users don’t know what “Sitting Disease” is but 74% believe that sitting too much can lead to an early death. “Sitting Disease” represents the ill-effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle and includes conditions like “metabolic syndrome” (obesity and diabetes), which is rapidly becoming more prevalent, especially in the young – even in adolescence and teenagers! Recently, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a policy encouraging employers, employees, and others to sit less citing the many risks associated with sitting including (but not limited to): diabetes, cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Standing is SO MUCH BETTER as it burns more calories than sitting, tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, reduces blood sugar, and improves metabolism. Standing is frequently overlooked as “an exercise” and it’s both simple and easy to do!

So, what about the low back and sitting? You guessed it – sitting is hard on the back! The pressure inside of our disks, those “shock absorbers” that lie between each vertebra in our spine (22 disks in total) is higher when we sit compared with simply standing or lying down. It’s estimated that when we lay down, the pressure on our disks is the lowest at 25mm. When lying on one side, it increases to 75mm, standing increases disk pressure to 100mm, and bending over from standing pushes disk pressure to 220mm. When we sit with good posture, our disk pressure may reach 140mm but that can increase to 190mm with poor posture. To help relieve the pressure on our disks, experts recommend: 1) Getting up periodically and standing; 2) Sitting back in your chair and avoiding slouched positions; 3) Placing a lumbar roll (about the size of your forearm) behind the low back and chair/car seat; and 4) Changing your position frequently when sitting.

Because certain low back conditions “favor” one position over another, these “rules” may need modification. For example, most herniated disk patients prefer low back extension while bending over or slouching hurts. In those with lumbar sprain/strains, bending forwards usually feels good and extension hurts. Modifying your position to the one that is most comfortable is perhaps the best advice.

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs. If you, a friend, or family member requires care for back pain, give us a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at .

Not Just Back Doctors: Chiropractors and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Chiropractor in Burke, VAWhile doctors of chiropractic have a well-deserved reputation for helping patients overcome back problems, they are actually experts in diagnosing and treating a wide range of health conditions that affect the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Many of these conditions involve the extremities—arms, legs, hands and feet—rather than the back, neck or hips. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is one example.

What causes CTS?

CTS affects about one in a thousand people each year, mostly women. It is essentially a mechanical problem caused by the median nerve being compressed as it runs through the carpal tunnel, a passageway made up of tendons, ligaments and bones that runs from the wrist to the hand.

In many cases, the precise cause of carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t clear. An injury to the wrist (sprains, strains or broken bones, for instance) may sometimes trigger CTS. So might strong vibrations from power tools or heavy machinery. Repetitive movements that place stress on this area of the body can also play a role. The tendons that control finger movement all run through the carpal tunnel, so when they become inflamed and swollen the amount of space is reduced, putting increased pressure on the median nerve.

Who’s most at risk?

Women. As mentioned earlier, women are at greater risk of CTS than men. There are a number of theories as to why women tend to suffer from CTS more frequently than men. One is that they have smaller wrist bones, and thus a smaller space through which tendons can pass. Another is that hormonal shifts may play a role, particularly during pregnancy and around menopause.

People with a genetic predisposition. Some people may have a genetic predisposition for CTS. Approximately one out of four people has a close family member who has also has the disorder.

Workers who perform repetitive, forceful movements that place localized stress on the wrist. Those who have jobs that involve repetitive movements of the arm are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Assembly line workers, carpenters and violinists would all be in relatively high-risk occupations. But what about heavy computer users? Interestingly, although long-term computer use was previously thought to contribute to CTS, there is now conflicting information about the relationship between keyboarding and CTS. Some studies, such as one from 2007 published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, have found that those who use a keyboard intensively at work actually have a significantly lower risk of developing CTS. It’s worth mentioning that some leisure activities can also contribute to the risk of CTS. Knitting, golfing and anything else that requires you to grip items in your hands for long periods of time could raise your risk.

Why chiropractic care?

CTS treatment has been evolving rapidly across the last few years, so it’s important to visit a healthcare provider who keeps current on the latest research and works with carpal tunnel patients on a regular basis. Among the most commonly recommended treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are using a wrist splint, resting the wrist and taking pain relievers. Surgery is usually viewed as a last resort that should be considered only after more conservative treatment options have been exhausted.

Recent research has focused on the role of manual therapies—particularly specialized manipulation and mobilization techniques—as well as exercise in relieving pain and restoring range of motion. Chiropractic treatment for CTS (specifically soft tissue mobilization) has been shown to be both safe and effective compared to conventional non-surgical medical treatment, helping to improve nerve conduction latencies, wrist strength and mobility.

Chiropractors (and physical therapists) may also prescribe at-home strengthening and stretching exercises to help relieve pain and improve function in the affected hand and wrist. These approaches offer natural alternatives to sufferers who can’t tolerate common over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or painkillers, or who simply wish to avoid medication altogether.

When it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome, early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to success. The sooner this condition is addressed, the more non-invasive therapeutic choices exist for the patient. So if you suspect that you or someone you care about is suffering from CTS, please give us a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.