By Lesley Cuddington, Registered Physiotherapist
Although many factors can lead to back pain — increased participation in sports or exercise, poor posture while sitting, and long periods of inactivity — some kids have backaches because they’re lugging around their entire weight worth of books, school supplies, and assorted personal items all day long. But most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their packs.
1. Choose a quality backpack from the outset. Not all backpacks are made alike and cheap ones are often lacking in proper support and durability. Look for a bag that is lightweight but comes with padded or ergonomic straps that are adjustable, padded back piece to protect the back from whatever is packed inside the bag and a contour that fits comfortably on your child’s back. Padded shoulder straps can also lessen the weight by distributing it evenly.
2. Pack only what you can carry rather than what can fit into the bag. Just because the bag is big doesn’t mean you should shove everything into it.
3. Pack the heaviest items at the bottom of the pack and the lightest items up the top. The reason for this is simple––the heavier items receive support from your back rather than causing you to sway if they sit away from your back up top.
4. Don’t put anything unnecessary in your bag. Don’t need textbooks in your bag? Don’t put them in.
5. Learn how to pick up the backpack using your LEGS! Don’t let kids lift a very heavy backpack off the ground – it increases the risk of injury! Help your kid by lifting it up and letting them slip into the arm straps, or have them lift it only their back from a raised table or chair!
6. Try storing items in your locker. Excess weight can be avoided by putting nonessential items in your locker including: sporting gear, large texts, spare notebooks, extra stationery, etc.
7. Clean your bag out weekly. It helps find the lost homework and avoid any excess weight that accumulates week to week!
If your child is complaining of back pain, get them assessed by a physiotherapist who can address muscle imbalances and postural dysfunction to avoid further issues as the textbooks get heavier!
Article by Lesley Cuddington, Registered Physiotherapist at Teamworks Health Clinic, a multi-disciplinary clinic in the heart of Vancouver offering Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Massage Therapy, Acupuncture, Dietetics and more. For more information visit www.teamworkshealth.ca or call 604-428-3006