School is only a few weeks away, so back to school shopping has begun. Selecting the right backpack is crucial to your child’s health. Many parents are not aware of the consequences of selecting the wrong backpack or carrying too much weight. These include:
• Increased risk for falls, because your child is forced to lean forward as a result of a heavy backpack.
• Back pain or muscle strain.
• Change in the natural curve of the spine
• Internal rotation of the shoulders and poor posture over time
Avoid some of these potential health risks by referencing these useful tips and considerations on how to lighten the load in your child’s backpack. It’s important to teach your kids to wear the backpack properly and promote a healthy back to school all year long!
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 50 pounds, then the backpack should be no more than 10 pounds (Make sure the weight in the backpack does not force your child to lean forward. This is a definite sign that the backpack is too heavy).
Weight distribution. Once you’re sure that 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 core.
Make sure shoulder straps are comfortable. Make sure the backpack has padded shoulder straps. You don’t want the straps digging into their shoulder.
Tighten Up. Always adjust the straps so that the backpack fits close to the body, but not so tight they pull on the shoulders.
Use both shoulder straps. Carrying the backpack over one shoulder forces other back muscles to compensate for the uneven weight distribution, causing the spine to lean to the opposite side. With time, this muscle imbalance will cause muscle strain and back pain. Neck muscles can also be affected, which oftentimes leads to increased neck pain and headaches.
Placement. The rule of thumb is that the bottom of the backpack should be 2-3 inches above the waist, while the top of the backpack should be below the neck.
Monitor the clutter. Kids tend to accumulate stuff in their backpacks with or without realizing it. Take the time to clean out their backpack weekly and eliminate items that are not necessary.
Multiple compartments are a great idea. If your child’s backpack has multiple compartments, it will be easier to evenly distribute the weight.
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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.