Returning to College: Oh my Back!

Not all of the challenges of going back to college involve hitting the books. Whether you’ve been away for a semester or decades, you may find that you’ve changed since the last time you were on campus. As such, it’s vitally important you take some of time and figure out how to deal with some of the “basic mechanics” that are often overlooked by returning students until they return to the dorms. Doing this early can help to avoid problems that can vary from figuring out how to deal with sleeping in a new bed to learning how to better manage your mental health. Solving any and all of these will be important for your success.

Sleeping in a New Bed
Moving in and out of dorms is one of the college “givens” and we think it’s one of the toughest things for a returning college student to deal with. After months or years of sleeping in your own cozy bed, a dorm bed can feel foreign and uncomfortable. If you want to sleep well, you may have to put in a bit of effort beforehand. Your first goal is to retrain your mind, a process that’s easier than you might think.

You can help the process along by following a strict bedtime routine – go to bed at the same time each night and use your bed only for sleeping, versus studying or lounging. In time, you’ll be able to train your body to recognize your new bed as the perfect place to fall asleep.

Posture
Yes, your physical posture matters quite a bit when you get back to campus. College students put a tremendous amount of stress on their backs, from carrying heavy backpacks to sitting in uncomfortable lecture halls for lengths of time. Coupled with the time that you will likely spend in front of a computer, and if a student isn’t mindful this situation can wreak havoc on your health by merely sitting for that long. Fortunately, working on your posture can help that.

One of the bests methods to improve your posture is to be conscious of how you sit. Keep your back straight, with your shoulders level. If you are at a computer, consider investing in either a taller desk or chair so that you don’t have to hunch over. When you’re at a lecture, sit straight and keep your study materials at arm’s length so that you don’t have to bend. A healthier posture will help your back feel better as you continue through the year.

Oh My Aching Backpack
Backpack for books and other supplies are the norm on campuses throughout the U.S. We also see a LOT of college student back and neck stress related to poor use of this “college fixture”. Here are a few tips to consider when using your backpack.

Reduce the weight

You’re not a pack-mule. We know books, notepads, laptops and other supplies can add up to a lot of weight. Rather than carry everything all the time, consider what you need, today. Your back, neck and legs can sustain a lot of weight. But here’s no need to put your long term back-health at risk because everything you might need in class this week is in your backpack, today.

Stay Close

When discussing how an injury occurs with patients, you may often hear us say, “It’s not the weight, it’s the motion”. Frequently, we work with patients who simply performed a repetitive motion too many times. Your backpack may not be that heavy, but if the straps are loose it’s very likely to shift and twist as you go from place to place. Keeping straps short and snug will help to keep the burden closer to your core and reduce how the weight shifts. A weight that’s “secure” and closer to your center of gravity, is less likely to place stress on your back, spine, hips and neck.


Taking Breaks
Finally, you’ll want to look at the physical and mental benefits of taking breaks during the day. If you’ve been away from school for a long time, you might be tempted to try to rush through everything in order to catch up. Be careful! For many of us, the body and mind simply can’t handle such a heavy of a pace without a chance to transition. Failure to take breaks can weaken your immune system, making it more difficult to concentrate. All of that can compound to greater stress and ultimately lead to poor mental health.

Much like the study process, learning to take breaks is a matter of habit. Schedule breaks into your day and force yourself to stop. Try to do something during these breaks that isn’t mentally taxing like working out or reading a favorite book. You’ll get a chance to recharge and your performance in your classes will improve.

Going back to college takes some getting used to, but you can do it. Make sure to focus on your mental and physical health as best you can. Remember, your most successful return to college is one that’s characterized by a healthy and happy life in addition to academic success.

Yeah but…

We understand that establishing new physical and mental habits takes time and repetition. Few of us do them perfectly. Which means at some point you’ll probably need some help to relieve the pressure of tight muscles or misalignment of your spine. At Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic our goal is to use the body’s own means of naturally remaining in good health. Much like the routine of study, a regimen of attending to a healthy spine goes a long way to helping YOU meet your long-term goals. Call us and schedule an appointment. Just a few minutes from both The University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology, we are easily accessible for nearly anyone in the Greater Rochester area. Contact us with any questions at 585-321-3200.