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Home arrow Opinion arrow Our View arrow KEEP CHILDREN FREE OF BACKPACK PAIN



There once was a time when back pain and back problems were reserved for adults. Improper lifting, inadequate stretching and exercising, and plain old age commonly take their toll on adults' backs. But the problem of back problems isn't exclusive to adults anymore. More and more children are suffering back problems, and the cause, in many instances, is use of backpacks loaded with too many books and supplies.

NOW THAT school has arrived, parents need to set some guidelines about how much weight their children can carry without damaging their backs. As the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says, overloading and slinging a heavy backpack over one shoulder can lead to a child developing muscle strains, spine curvations and a lifetime of back pain.

The academy reports that more than 13,000 injuries related to backpacks are treated by doctors every year.

CHILDREN won't know the limits of what they should be carrying unless their parents tell them. Heavy backpacks have become trendy, too, and a fashion statement. But kids can't let trends and fashions dictate what they should be doing. Back pain or injury is no fun. Parents need to lay down some rules.

The academy has several suggestions for using backpacks:

• DON'T OVERLOAD. A child's backpack should weigh no more than 15 to 20 percent of the child's body weight. A heavy backpack forces the wearer to bend forward.

• Do not buy a backpack that hangs more than four inches below the waistline. Backpacks that hang too low increase weight on the shoulders.

• Use both shoulder straps. A pack slung over one shoulder shifts weight to one side, causing muscle spasms and low back pain.

• Use a waist/hip strap to distribute weight evenly between the back and hips.

• LOOK FOR PADDED and adjustable shoulder straps.

• Choose a backpack on wheels if the school allows it.

• Place heaviest items closest to the back, but be sure pointed or sharp objects are pointed away from the back.

• Make frequent trips to the locker between classes to replace books, rather than try to carry all of them all of the time.

Most back injuries are preventable. Parents need to instill in their kids the importance of proper and safe use of backpacks.


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