It's finally time to head back to school in Northern Michigan! Next week, families all over the region will send their kids out the door in a slick new outfit and a backpack filled with lunch, books, binders, and a water bottle, too. But how much of a load it too much for your little learner?
After the thrill of the first days of school, that heavy load can actually take a real toll on a child's back. You may remember lurching under the weight of all your books and folders when you were growing up, and even in the world of digital textbooks and iPads, kids these days still have plenty to back for a full day of learning.
Too much, however, and kids risk muscle pain, back pain, and even strained necks and shoulders due to hefty loads. The penchant for slinging a bag over one shoulder can also ruin spinal alignment. Even worn properly, a heavy backpack can affect the natural curve of the spine, putting stress on vertebrae.
Luckily, there's little evidence to suggest that backpacks can contribute to long-term back issues in most schools. However, there are some simple tips we can all remember to make sure we avoid those niggling aches and pains. First, instruct your child to pack the bag evenly, so the weight is distributed across the back. Always make sure they wear the bag with both shoulder straps, and to adjust the straps so neither side is lower than the other.
The bag itself is important, too. Consider purchasing a bag with wheels so that it can be rolled where possible, and look for light materials that reduce the total weight of the bag. Backpacks that offer waist or sternum straps can also help to ensure the bag puts equal pressure across the back and doesn't shift or bouncing while walking.
Though there isn't plentiful research in the area, most experts agree that limiting the bag to 10-15% of the child's body weight is a good benchmark. To help keep the weight down, see what books can be left in lockers consistently, so that your child's cargo includes only things needed that evening. Also, if your child carries a water bottle, consider leaving it empty until they arrive to school to reduce the extra few pounds a full bottle can contribute to the bag. The same goes for any juice boxes or drinks they pack for lunch; maybe have them buy milk or juice, or stick to water when they're bringing their lunch.
Common sense and a little planning can go a long way in keeping our kid's backs safe and injury-free. And of course, this is a great reminder to all of us that carry bags for work, to the gym, or just around town to make sure we aren't putting unnecessary strain on our back, neck, and shoulders!
Ready for school? We hope you are! From everyone at Core Health & Wellness, here's to a great semester!