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Fall is in the air, and it is back to school time! We see, too often, the negative effects heavy backpacks have on the postures of those who carry them. Rounded shoulders, protruding neck, arched back, knock knees… all leading to headaches, neck pain, leg pain, back pain, and secondary issues. Let’s be preventative, lighten the load in those backpacks, and start working on muscles which support proper posture and will help minimize pain, and secondary issues from occurring.

Read on for a list of the most important exercises to do to counteract poor posture from heavy back pack loads.


This exercise works on strengthening the muscles between your shoulder blades to support the upper back.

Setup

  • – Begin lying on your front with your arms resting on the ground at a 45 degree angle from your sides and elbows bent so they form a W shape.

Movement

  • – Lift your arms off the ground, then lower them back to the ground and repeat. Think of squeezing your shoulder blades together as you lift your arms. Repeat 10 times.

Tip

  • – Make sure to keep your back relaxed and do not shrug your shoulders during the exercise.

 

 

This exercise strengthens the muscles in the neck called the neck flexors. It helps prevent a forward head posture.

Setup

  • – Begin lying on your back with your neck relaxed.

Movement

  • – Gently tuck your chin directly backward as if you are making a double chin. Hold, then relax and repeat. Repeat 10 times.

Tip

  • – Make sure not to lift your head from the ground.

 

 

This stretch is for the muscles in the chest to prevent rounded shoulders.

Setup

  • – Begin in a standing upright position in the center of a doorway.

Movement

  • – With your elbow bent, place your forearm on the side of the doorway at a 90 degree angle from your side, then take a small step forward and slightly rotate your body until your feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

Tip

  • – Make sure to maintain a gentle stretch and do not shrug your shoulder during the exercise.

 

This exercise works on all postural muscles and retrains the brain the proper alignment while standing.

Setup

  • – Begin in a standing position with your feet firmly planted shoulder width apart.

Movement

  • – Imagine a string is attached to the top of your head. Straighten your back as if the string were being pulled directly up towards the ceiling. At the same time gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and slightly nod your chin backward. Hold this position for 30 seconds

Tip

  • – There should be little movement in this exercise. Try to avoid excess tension in your shoulders and neck.

Give these exercises a try… and remember to keep your backpack light. The American Physical Therapy Association and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that no one should carry more than 25 pounds in a backpack. Children under 100 pounds should have a maximum backpack weight of 15 pounds.
Prevention is key- decrease the weight in your backpack and work on your postural stabilizing muscles.

Charlotte Anderson
Registered Physiotherapist
ALPHA Health Services
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