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School’s Around the Corner, Backpack Safety

School’s Around the Corner, Backpack Safety

By Kevin Cleary

 

                As August draws to a close, every child dreads the return to school at the end of the month or in September. Many children carry their textbooks and technology aids (such as laptops, tablets, or even smart phones) in their backpack. After a while, that backpack gets heavy and can cause shoulder and back discomfort in our children. Using a backpack can be beneficial by distributing the weight evenly on both shoulders, but we all know our kids and they may not always wear their backpack properly. Between wearing their backpack improperly and overloading the contents problems can arise.

School’s Around the Corner, Backpack Safety

Backpack Issues

                So how does an over laden backpack negatively affect our children? Some of our largest muscles are in our back and our back can compensate for a heavy load for a while, but as spine-health.com points out it can lead to some negative issues. They list problems that can arise from poor weight distribution or just overloading your child’s backpack that can include:

  1. Distort Curves in the Middle/Lower Back: This can lead to muscle strain, as well as causing pain in the spine and rib area.
  2. Rounding of Shoulders: With a heavy load strapped on our shoulders the constant strain can lead to aches and pain. Hey, gravity works!!
  3. Leaning Forward: In order to compensate for the heavy load behind them, children may lean forward to compensate and therefore be more susceptible to falling.

It’s not just heavy weight that can lead to back pain, but constantly wearing your backpack on one shoulder can lead to muscular imbalance. This leads our spine to lean in the opposite direction to compensate for the unbalanced weight load.

School’s Around the Corner, Backpack Safety

Remedies

                Medical researchers found that a lot of these backpack related aches and pains are temporary and can be alleviated with rest, but any persistent pain should be addressed by your family doctor. There has been really no conclusive medical study to offer concrete guidelines, but parents can use common sense to help alleviate any discomfort. Many simple massagers can help with temporary muscle aches and pains. They use vibrations to help alleviate overworked muscles and joints. The material your child’s backpack is made of helps. Lightweight nylon is preferred over heavier materials such as leather. Parents should simply weigh the bag before your child is off on the bus. Simply use a scale to see how much of a burden that bag is. The use of the strap around the waist can help better distribute the weight load of the bag. You can even utilize a carrier with wheels so that it can be pulled instead of carried!! The guideline put forth by the American Physical Therapy Association suggests that the backpack weight should be 15-20% of your child’s weight. No more!! You can help your child reduce aches and pain with topical gels that warm the sore muscles. They can soothe and relax muscles by increasing blood flow to the sore area. While muscle pain from an overloaded backpack can be temporary, over time the aches and pains may last longer (especially as our children get older) with heavier books and equipment. You can treat this pain locally with pain relief patches; some with medication (such as lidocaine) or even made from natural herbal sources. You should always check with your child’s pediatrician or doctor before applying any medicated patch.

Be proactive in helping your child keep the physical load off their back since the load of school work is inevitable. Maybe by minimizing the weight of their textbooks and equipment, or at least reducing the aches and pains, we can help with the stress of school. Maybe not, but they won’t have to deal with back or shoulder pain if we can help it!!