Back to school season has arrived, and kids across Ohio are gearing up to go shopping for new school supplies. Few things are more exciting than searching for and finding the perfect backpack for a new school year. Backpacks are essential items, as kids have to tote around books, paper, pencils and other school supplies, not to mention lunches and sporting equipment. When a backpack is overloaded or improperly worn, a child can encounter back pain. The team at Capital City Neurosurgery would like to share the following information with parents, in the hopes of helping kids avoid back issues and enjoy a wonderful 2017-2018 school year!
Risks of Carrying a Heavy Backpack
According to multiple studies, children who carry overloaded backpacks can suffer from muscle strain, lumbar spine injuries and even lateral spinal curves. One study found that more than 60 percent of students who carried backpacks reported some form of back pain. Girls were more likely to suffer than boys, and older adolescents reported pain more frequently than younger children. In the United States, more than 14,000 children receive treatment for backpack-related injuries each year. Importantly, many of those injuries can be easily avoided with a few simple steps.
Choose the Best Fit
When kids shop for a new backpack, they are usually focused exclusively on style. They want a bag that features their favorite movie character, color, sports team or other interest. They have little to no regard to how the backpack will fit. Parents, on the other hand, are often looking for the durability and quality of the bag, searching for an option that has a shot at making through the entire school year. Even more important than style and durability, however, is how the bag fits the wearer. One of the best ways to avoid back injury is by selecting a backpack that offers the right fit. The pack should have wide, padded straps that are adjustable, and it should have multiple compartments to allow for an even distribution of weight. Good options include a padded back panel and a waist strap to distribute some of the weight of the bag down to the hips.
Limit the Weight of the Backpack
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the weight of your child's backpack should not exceed 10 to 20 percent of their body weight. Parents should help their student take stock of what is in their bag, and reduce unnecessary weight when possible. That could mean only bringing home books that are needed for nightly homework or cutting down on how much extra notebook paper is being toted back and forth. Replacing packed beverages with a refillable water bottle can also help. Most kids develop a habit of carrying around far more school supplies than they need, and selective thinning can take much of the weight off.
Wear the Backpack Properly
The single most impactful thing that kids can do to reduce back strain is to wear their backpack on both shoulders, properly adjusted for a close fit. Slinging a bag over one shoulder or carrying it in one hand creates an imbalance that can quickly lead to back pain. Students should also avoid carrying their backpacks when they don't have to, and should store them in a locker or take them off while waiting for the bus or standing in lines.
At Capital City Neurosurgery, we believe in educating our patients on best practices that promote optimal spinal health. It is never too early to start protecting your spine, and teaching kids how to properly choose, wear and load their backpacks is a great place to start!