ADVERTISING: Advertorial — DR. WAYNE M. FICHTER: Start the school year off right — 4 tips to school backpack safety

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Now that your child is back in school it is important to evaluate their backpack for proper fit. Some of you may not be aware of potential dangers in selecting the wrong backpack or carrying too much weight.

These dangers include:

• Increased risk for falls because your child is forced to lean forward as a result of a heavy or off-balance load

• Muscle strain and/or local irritation to the ribcage and spine

• Change in the natural curve of the spine

• Internal rotation of the shoulders and poor posture over time

4 tips to lighten the load of your child’s backpack:

Do the math — The American Physical Therapy Association suggests that the recommended weight limit of a backpack should be 15-20% of a child’s body weight. For example, if your child weighs 100 pounds, then the backpack should be no more than 20 pounds. It is important to make certain that the weight in the backpack does not cause your child to lean forward. This is a sign that the backpack is too heavy.

Weight distribution — Once you have the correct weight in your child’s backpack, make sure it is distributed evenly. Always pack heavy items at the bottom to ensure that the heaviest load is carried lower and closer to your child’s lumbar spine. Have you child wear a backpack that has padded shoulder straps and the material against your child’s spine is padded. This well help prevent the straps from digging into your child’s shoulders or objects from digging into your child’s back.

Adjust the backpack — Make sure it fits properly to help prevent injury. Always adjust the straps so that the backpack fits snug to the body, but be careful to ensure that they are not so tight they pull on the shoulders. Avoid leaving too much slack in the straps as well, because wearing a backpack too low can hurt your child’s lower back. Check that both straps are equal length and that your child is wearing both shoulder straps. Carrying the backpack over one shoulder forces back muscles to compensate for the uneven weight distribution. This repetitive pattern can cause the spine to lean to the opposite side, resulting in muscle strain and back pain. If your child is leaning forward, this can increase tension on the neck muscles, leading to an increased chance of neck pain and headaches.

Proper Placement — A rule of thumb is that the bottom of the backpack should not fall below the waist, while the top of the backpack should be below the neck and top of the shoulders. If this is not possible, then the backpack is too large for your child’s frame.

Monitor the clutter — Kids tend to accumulate items in their backpacks without realizing it. Take the time to go through the contents of their backpack weekly and eliminate items that are not necessary. The extra weight increases tension on their growing spine.

As your child is growing, their posture can change through various milestones. If you would like to have your child’s posture evaluated, please call Natural Spine Solutions at 208-966-4425 to schedule an appointment.

• • •

Dr. Wayne M. Fichter Jr. is a chiropractor at Natural Spine Solutions. The business is located at 3913 Schreiber Way in Coeur d’Alene, 208-966-4425.

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