House Calls runs every other Thursday. Today's column is written by Sharryn Jones, a physical therapist at Sutter Coast Hospital.
The time has come for school to start again here in Crescent City after the Labor Day holiday.
As some school districts consider swapping heavy textbooks for e-reader tablets, local health experts understand the impact an overloaded backpack can have on a child - aching back and shoulders, tingling arms, stooped posture and weakened muscles. But parents can help prevent these possible pains in a few simple ways.
According to experts within the Sutter Health System, parents are often surprised at how much their child's backpack actually weigh. As a general rule, to prevent injury, your child's full backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of his or her body weight.
How a student wears his or her backpack is often just as important as
its overall weight.
Kids often wear their bag slung over one shoulder or so low that it
sits below their waist. This could cause neck and muscle spasms, lower
back pain or even numbness and tingling in a student's arms.
While some experts disagree on whether heavy backpacks are the source
of back pain in children, most agree that using good judgment when
wearing one will reduce the potential risk of backpack-related injuries.
Here are some tips to lighten the strain on your child's back:
andbull; Make sure the back pack is the correct size. It should be no larger
than your child's back and should rest 1-2 inches below the shoulders
and no more than 4 inches above the waistline (level with the
andbull; Leather is fashionable, but it's heavier than nylon
andbull; Buy a backpack with a well padded back and wide, padded shoulder
straps to minimize pressure on the shoulders and collarbone. Shoulders
and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and
tingling in the neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied
andbull; Carry the pack on both shoulders to spread the weight evenly.
Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one
side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort
andbull; Tighten the shoulder straps so the bag lies ideally about 2 inches
above the waist. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the
child backwards and strain muscles
andbull; Consider a backpack with a waist belt. This helps distribute the
packs weight more evenly.
andbull; Pack the heaviest items closest to the center of the back to
minimize additional strain. Organize the pack so items will not shift
around and rest comfortably against the back
andbull; Bend both knees instead of leaning over when hoisting a heavy bag.
andbull; Where possible, talk to your child about using his or her locker to
keep from carrying everything around all day. Make sure what your child
carries to school and brings home are necessary to the day's activities
andbull; On days the pack is too heavy, your child can hand-carry a book or
other item. Another consideration is to use a book bag on wheels.
andbull; If your child is experiencing neck or back pain, see his or her
doctor. A referral to a physical therapist may be beneficial to help
with a strengthening program and to address pain issues.
Pack it light, wear it right!
Email suggestions for future House Calls columns to Beth Liles at
Sutter Coast Hospital, firstname.lastname@example.org