Lighten the Load
Homework is part of a kid's life; back pain shouldn't be
Children can aggravate their backs a number of ways: from playing sports, from over-exercising, or from slouching while sitting at a desk. But more often, the culprit is an ill-fitted backpack loaded with books. Many kids tote a heavy load to and from school, placing heavy burdens on young backs.
The American Academy of Orthopedics states that backpack injury is a significant problem for children. Safe Kids Mid-South, led by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, stresses the importance of your child’s safety. Problems can be avoided by parents taking an active role in teaching their children ways to prevent serious injuries.
Did You Know?
• Heavy backpacks have a destructive impact on posture and spinal health. Carrying too much weight contributes to poor disk alignment and forces the head forward, which leads to muscle fatigue and strain, especially in the back and shoulders. Carrying it on one shoulder can also cause problems, since weight is distributed unevenly.
• Heavy loads can cause injuries that last a lifetime. Injuries to the shoulders, neck, and back will cause recurring pain and problems.
• Fifty-five percent of students carry more than the national guideline of 10 to 15 percent of body weight. Many children, teens, and adults are carrying up to 40 pounds in their backpacks. Is it any wonder then that 65 percent of American teen visits to the doctor are for back-related injury?
Ways To Prevent Back Injury
• Choose a backpack that is small with thickly padded shoulder straps and a lumbar support. It is also important to select a backpack with a padded back, a waist belt that distributes weight evenly, and one with multiple compartments that allows better weight distribution.
• Wear a backpack properly. Distribute the weight evenly, using both shoulder straps (not just one), and have your child remove her backpack if she’ll be standing for a long period of time.
• Lift a backpack properly. Face the backpack before you lift it, bend at the knees and lift with your legs, not your back. Keep the pack close to your body.
• Use school lockers to store books.
• Leave unnecessary items at home or in a locker instead of storing them in the backpack.
When taking these precautions, your child should be better protected against back injuries from improper backpack use.
Sources: Working Well Ergonomics & Kidshealth.org.
— Susan Helms is the director of Safe Kids Mid-South. Visit lebonheur.org/safekids