Backpack basics to prevent back problems
Parents, it is important to talk to your kids about proper backpack use to avoid possible back problems in the future–and all you adult backpackers should also listen up.
With school starting up, it seems that every student is strapping on a new one. And it’s not just kids: adults are backpacking computers, and personal items and using backpacks as a briefcase. When used correctly the backpack can be a great way to carry many items during the school day or to work.
But the problem with backpacks usually begins with children developing bad habits. I most often see that students are wearing the bag for fashion and not function, which can cause some serious back problems. Another common problem that can lead to a back injury, including the shoulders and neck, is when the backpack is too heavy.
According to a study conducted recently, more than 79 million children and young adults in India carry a backpack to school every day. Of those students, experts estimate that 55 percent of them are carrying too much weight.
This study looked at nearly 3,500 middle school students aged 11 to 15 and found that 64 percent reported at least some pain from their backpack. Twenty-one percent reported that the pain lasted for more than six months, with girls being considerably more likely to report back pain.
These numbers remind us of the importance of talking with our children about the consequence of having a backpack that is too heavy or that is not worn properly. Parents should talk to their children and ask them if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Aching back and shoulders.
- Tingling arms or legs.
- Weakened muscles.
- Stooped posture.
If your child is experiencing continuous back pain or numbness in his or her extremities, you should get your child to a doctor for treatment. The same goes for adults.
Schedule an appointment for your child’s back pain today.
Choosing a backpack to avoid back problems
These days you can get a backpack in all different colors and designs, but that should not be the only thing you are looking at when it comes to picking out a new backpack. You want a backpack that will reduce the chance of back problems, so look for one that has the following features:
- Two wide, padded, adjustable shoulder straps.
- Waist or chest strap.
- Padded, structured back.
- Lightweight backpack.
- No wider than the student’s chest.
- Several compartments.
Rolling backpacks can be an alternative to avoiding heavy backpacks. But if the child’s school has a lot of stairs, he or she may need to carry the bag, which could still cause back pains if the student is not always using proper lifting techniques. These backpacks with wheels can also be a large tripping hazard.
It is important to not only pick a proper backpack, but you must also wear it correctly to get the full benefits. To prevent back injury, talk with your child and be sure he/she is doing the following when wearing a backpack:
- Use both shoulder straps to help distribute the weight equally across the back.
- Tighten the straps so that the backpack is closer to the back and not sagging down.
- Keep the backpack as light as possible. According to the AOTA, the back should weigh no more than 10 percent of the student’s body weight. When carrying heavier items, place them in the center of the backpack closest to the back. When needing to make a backpack lighter, the student can carry a book/books by hand.
- Encourage your children to use their locker instead of carrying around the entire day’s worth of books in their backpack. In the morning, remind them to only bring home the needed books for homework and leave the rest in their locker.
- If your child is constantly needing to carry multiple textbooks, talk to the school. Work with school officials to find a solution to lessen the student’s load. Ideas to help with this include, more time between classes to access the lockers, putting some books on the school’s website, and using paperback books.
The proper way to put on a backpack:
Now that you have a backpack that will provide the best support, it is important to learn how to put it on to avoid injuring your back. To properly put on a backpack, be sure to bend and lift with the knees to pick it up instead of bending at the waist.
Bad lifting – good exercise:
Many back injuries are a result of improper lifting techniques, and could easily be avoided. According to the principles of biomechanics, the worst lifting situation occurs when the body is extended over the load. The lower back becomes a fulcrum supporting the weight of the body plus the load. Twisting in this position invites injury.
Here’s how to lift correctly. Keep your back upright to shift weight onto the powerful leg muscles and reduce the lever effect. Maintain your three natural curves in their normal, balanced position.
A regular exercise program:
- Improves flexibility.
- Improves strength.
- Increases fitness and endurance.
Strong, flexible muscles help keep your three natural curves in their normal, balanced alignment. Strong abdominal and back muscles can act as a brace to support your lower back. If thigh, hip, and buttock muscles are strong and flexible, they can do more of the work of lifting and moving, taking some of the stress off your back.
Please let us know if you have any questions and do leave a comment
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