Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Backpacks and Backaches!

A huge thanks to Premier Chiropractic for sharing their expertise on backpacks and for the great tips on how to minimize the impact those bags can have on their tiny bodies!

It’s already that time of the year where summer-long vacation is coming to an end and where families are getting the kids ready to get back to school. School shopping has come and gone and backpacks are getting filled up to get the former vacationers a good start. Some are heavier than others as the weight tremendously varies depending on the student’s age. According to a New York Times research, the average elementary school-aged child’s book bag’s weight averages 5 to 8 pounds. By 6th grade, it has quickly grown to 18 to 39 pounds. With such loads being carried every day, it is important as a parent to know the impact a heavy backpack has on a child’s developing spine. 

A good place to start is this: the backpack should be 10% of the elementary child’s body weight and 15% for older kids and teenagers. When carrying a heavy book bag, the tendency is going to be to hover forward, bringing the head in front of the shoulders, which needs to be compensated for by the pelvis. Bearing more than that suggested weight for long periods of time then weakens your child’s postural back musculature, putting an inappropriate load onto the lumbar spine and discs. This is even more true if your child has scoliosis. These muscles are therefore vital for proper spinal development. 
So, then, what can we do to decrease this load? First, a book pack with two shoulder straps represents a much better option than messenger bags that are carried on one shoulder only. Doing so can create even more spinal and pelvic distress due to the great deal of compensation smaller muscles who are not designed for that task have to perform, especially at a young developing age. Making sure your child can (and actually does!) carry his or her bag on both shoulders ensures a healthier central and equal load on the spine.

Second, verify with your children that they are only bringing home the books they will need for their homework and assignments that night. The unnecessary ones should be left in the locker or in the classroom to spend the night until they are needed. Also, if your kids have lockers, quick trips during lunch time to drop off the books they used in the morning and pick up the ones for the afternoon are a good way to lighten up the load. Removing the clutter that eventually and magically accumulates after a while and reorganizing binders and notebooks puts less stress on the back.
Finally, another idea that is not necessarily esthetically “cool” is to wear the backpack forward-facing where it is covering the kid’s stomach. Worn that way, the new “bellypack” constantly activates the postural muscles of the back helping them maintain a better and stronger posture. The only dilemma here is convincing the kids this is a good idea...
It is important to understand the proper uses of a book bag. By reducing the weight of the bag as much as possible on a developing spine, you will contribute to your child’s healthy spine for years to come. 

For any additional information on strategies to ensure your family’s spinal health or if you have questions and want to schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Mercier via their website, visit www.premierchiropa.com .

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