Back to School Shouldn’t Mean Back Pain

Some simple tips can keep children from suffering from improper backpack usage.

Child with a backpackBetween exams, college applications and keeping up with their friends’ styles, school children carry a lot of weight on their shoulders.

But physiotherapist Alvin Straub says the bulk of backpacks can also be a weighty issue. Packing book bags with too much stuff is hard on the back muscles and posture. “Some kids pack their life in their backpack going back-and-forth to school,” says Straub, who works at the Physioclinic in Pictou. “The lighter, the better. And that takes planning. Otherwise, you could be looking at neck strains, sore shoulders and an asymmetry in the muscles.”

How much is too much in a backpack? Younger children should have no more than 10 pounds in their bags on the way out the door. Add about five pounds for older students, and maybe max that out to 20 pounds for your larger high school kids.

And while your children are lightening their load, keep telling them to sit up straight at the dinner table and in class.

“Your mother was always right,” says Straub of the age-old command. “You don’t need to sit rod straight, but shift around, keep a fairly neutral posture.”

Some tips that should keep your children on the up-and-up this school year:

Things to look for when purchasing a backpack

  • Back padding to keep contents from digging into your back
  • Padded shoulder straps to help balance weight
  • A waist belt or hip strap to distribute the weight from some heavier loads to the pelvis and legs
  • Multiple storage compartments to help balance weight evenly
  • Reflective material for improved visibility

Wearing your backpack right

  • Always use both shoulder straps and stand tall.
  • Do not lean forward when walking. If you’re doing this, there’s too much weight in the pack.
  • Clean out the backpack at least once a week.
  • A full backpack should never weight more than 10-16 per cent of your total body weight.

Signs of an injury

  • Pain when wearing the backpack
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms or legs
  • Red marks on the shoulders

Source: Life Mark Health Physiotherapy

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