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Backpack Safety Tips

It’s hard to believe that it’s September and the kids (and many adults) are back to school. It’s also the perfect time for a reminder about how to avoid problems caused by too-heavy backpacks.

There’s been an alarming trend in increased back, shoulder, and neck pain in children linked to overweight bags – often slung over one shoulder. And, according to research, the longer a child carries that weight, the harder it is to correct these problems.

The American Chiropractic Association believes that limiting the backpack’s weight to no more than 5 to 10 percent of a child’s body weight and the use of ergonomically correct backpacks are possible solutions.

The ACA also provides these excellent tips for preventing the needless pain that backpack misuse could cause the students in your household:

– The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.

– A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back.

– Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry – and the heavier the backpack will be.

– Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.

– Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child’s shoulders. The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.

– If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child’s teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.

– Although the use of rollerpacks – or backpacks on wheels – has become popular in recent years, ACA is now recommending that they be used cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack. Some school districts have begun banning the use of rollerpacks because they clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous trips and falls.

If you or your child experience any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, contact our office. Doctors of Chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. And, as always, feel free to call us with any questions.

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