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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Back to School Without Back Pain: Backpack Safety: Backpack Safety

Sep 29, 2012 12:56PM

We’ve heard that books help children develop mentally, but can they also be harmful to a youngster’s body? When children’s backpacks are filled to the brim with books, the weight of learning can injure young spines.

When you send your child off to school, you see an energetic child eager to learn. A doctor of chiropractic, a health specialist who puts particular emphasis on spinal integrity, sees something else. Over the course of a school day, a child’s backpack can weigh up to 30 pounds. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child’s backpack should not weigh more than ten percent of a child’s weight. A too-heavy backpack throws off a child’s equilibrium and balance and contributes to lower back pain. Such weight compressed in one area forces children into a habit of bad posture and poor weight distribution.

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends the following tips for backpack use (ACAtoday.org):

•  Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than ten percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.

•  The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.

•  A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back.

•  Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry — and the heavier the backpack will be.

•  Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms and low-back pain.

•  Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and can dig into your child’s shoulders. The shoulder straps should be adjustable so that the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.

• If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child’s teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter handout materials or workbooks.

Although the use of roller packs —backpacks on wheels — has become popular in recent years, the ACA is now recommending that they be used cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack. Some school districts have begun banning the use of roller packs because they clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous trips and falls.

Most importantly, remember pain is a symptom and not a cause. Pain of any type can be an indication of a possible health problem. It signals that the body is not functioning properly, and since the body is made up of nerves that travel through the spine to all parts of the body, the source of the problem may not be at the point of the pain. If you feel your child is suffering from pain, call 973-627-0910 to speak to one of the specialists at Denville Medical & Sports Rehabilitation Center.

For more information, visit Denville Medical & Sports Rehabilitation Center’s website: DenvilleMedical.com.

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