According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), 60 percent of children toting heavy backpacks to school had suffered from back pain; studies conducted in France have shown that the longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for the spine to correct itself from a curvature or deformity; and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, concluded that the heavier the bags, the more there was compression of the discs in the spine and increased curvature of the lower spine in kids.
Kids’ schoolbags should not weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of their own weight (i.e. if a child weights 65 pounds, their backpack should weigh no more than 13 pounds). Concerned parents only need to see their children leaning in one direction, breathing heavily while lugging their backpacks, or holding their straps to ease achy shoulders to realize they are carrying too much weight. Here are some tips to get your kids’ minds off their backs and back into their studies:
Be Picky About Your Pack
Children naturally migrate toward backpacks that display their favorite television characters. Examine these carefully. The right carryall for their school supplies can be fun and safe. An appropriate-sized backpack will end just a few inches above the waist. Also look for a backpack that has soft, padded straps to maximize comfort and different compartments that help distribute the weight. Packs with waist straps are an added bonus.
Proper Pack Packing
Have your child sort through their backpack and leave any books home that aren’t needed. Place the heaviest items in first so they are closer to your child’s back and put less strain on those muscles. Encourage your child to stop at his or her locker frequently to drop off books that aren’t needed the rest of the day. If the choice is available, advise your child to select a paperback textbook over the heavier hardcovers.
Schlepping the Pack
Get children in the habit of setting their backpacks down at waist level and not on the floor. Kids need to bend at the knees and use legs and both hands to lift the pack, applying one shoulder strap and then the other, never toting the entire weight of the backpack on just one shoulder. Be sure they tighten the shoulder straps so that the pack is close to the body and two inches above the waist. Encourage them to use the waist strap for extra support.
Strengthen the Back for the Pack
Kids who exercise to strengthen their pack toting muscles are sure to get an A+ from their backs and shoulders. Help them devise a routine that stretches the lower back (i.e. pelvic thrust or basic twist), the core (yoga moves such as the Cat or the Cobra), arms and shoulders, hamstrings and the neck (neck roll or wall back stretch).