As quickly as it came, it is over and summer vacation is gone. Hopefully everyone made some wonderful memories and the kids are ready to brush some dust off their brain cells. Remember to slow down drivers and be extra cautious wherever kids are or might be.
Learning can be stressful to the brain, especially for parents trying to understand this core math stuff, but it also can weigh heavily on your child’s back. Do you remember the amount of homework they have and the size of their book bags? Not to mention some students are playing sports and have to lug that duffle bag as well.
The American Occupational Therapy Association reported 79 million low back injuries have been reported by kids carrying heavy backpacks. But as a chiropractor I have seen my share of kids complaining of headaches, neck pain, upper back issues, posture changes and scoliosis to name a few.
In 2013, the US Consumer Products and Safety Commission published that over 22,000 sprains, strains, dislocation and fractures were treated at various clinics, all due to those darn back packs.
I’ve gone through some of the most recent research and ideas on back pack safety for kids, as well as, the treatment for injuries related to carrying these heavy bags.
Here is a bullet list of ideas to implement for your loved ones to keep them well.
• Pick an appropriately sized book bag for the size of your child so it isn’t swinging around. The bigger the purse, or house, the more we pack into them. Pick the right sized bag for the job, or child.
• The bag should not hang more than 4 inches below their waist or be wider than their back.
• Don’t over pack. It shouldn’t weigh more than 15 percent of your childs’ bodyweight. A 50-pound child should carry no more than 7-8 pounds in their book bag, 75-pounds – 11-12 pound book bag, 100 pounds – 15 pound book bag, etc.
• Try to plan better so everything doesn’t have to come home. Parents may be able to help determine what is needed or not and teach children about what is necessary to tote back and forth.
• When you pack the bag use some thought to avoid heavy items on top or prevent shifting of items.
• Keep the majority of the weight around waist level. If the weight is too high it will force your child to lean forward or it could pull him/her backwards and damage his/her lower back. This will lead to more postural stress and forward bending.
• When you lift the bag to put it on, lift with your legs, keep the back straight, use two hands and face the bag.
• Get a pack that has an ergonomic design with a padded back and two shoulder straps to reduce shoulder pressure, but both straps have to be used kids. Not as cool but good for your body. Speak with your child about this.
• One strap is similar to carrying a heavy purse. It can lead to the body shifting to one side, result in an elevated shoulder, neck pain, postural problems and back pain.
• Some backpacks have a waist strap to ensure that the weight stays low and close to the body. They could have a chest strap to limit sway or movement but also transfer weight distribution to the torso. Even compression straps can secure items inside and keep them safe.
• Look for red marks on your child’s skin to determine if the book bag is positioned correctly or too heavy.
• Is it possible to get a ride or be picked up to decrease the amount of time the book bag is worn?
• Can your child get some of this work done in a study hall and bring home less? Of course they can.
• Does the school have a program that offers books online, enabling students to complete their assignments at home with a computer?
• Can you borrow an extra book from school, or the library, to have at home so your student doesn’t need to keep bringing their book back and forth each day?
• Maybe put a reflective tag, a name badge, a small flashlight and a couple bucks so they can be seen easily at dusk and have some change to make a call or grab a snack.
Children of all ages can experience headaches, neck and back pain, just like adults. Listen to your child if they complain. Medications help the symptom but do not correct spinal problems and in a growing child, it is extremely important that they have a healthy spine. Also, kids respond quickly because their body and muscles haven’t had a chance to adapt and become a bigger problem like us adults who wait.
Dr. Jay M. Lipoff is the owner of Back At Your Best Chiropractic & Physical Therapy, LLC, which is located in the Wildewood Shopping Center. Dr. Lipoff is also the author of “Back At Your Best; Balancing the Demands of Life With the Needs of Your Body.” It is available in book and Kindle format at Amazon.
He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University in 1990, a Doctorate of Chiropractic (D.C.) from New York Chiropractic College (NYCC) in 1994 and he became a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) in 2005.
Dr. Lipoff is an Executive Board Member, International Chiropractic Association Council on Fitness and Sports Health Science; won the 2015 Arnold Schwarzenegger Legacy Award for his community work; has a radio segment: Back At Your Best in 5 Minutes or Less, President and Founder; Foundation 4 Heroes, Contributing writer; The Baynet, Huffington Post and SoMD News, Co-Founder, Drug Free Training USA; Member, NY Strength-promoting the importance of physical conditioning; Board Member of Public Relations Committee, Maryland Chiropractic