Back-to-school often means new book bags filled to the brim. How can we make sure that our back-pack-carrying children are not doing damage to their spines as they tote all their belongings around? Experts offer suggestions and tips for keeping their spines in tip-top shape!
Spine surgeons across the country say it never ceases to amaze them when they see the damage that is done to formative spines from a basic book bag. I know for my son, I couldn’t believe how heavy his book bag was just with my packed lunch and a lightweight folder! Especially when you make an effort to send your little to school with healthy lunches, often in stainless containers, and plenty of water.
As students get older, more gets added in the way of books, laptops and school supplies, and all of that on a forming spine could make a big difference in development. Children put unnecessary pressure on their muscles and joints as they try to compensate for heavy back packs, and this can lead to spinal disk compression, even in a little one.
Experts recommend your child’s book bag never weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of his/her body weight, and if it does, it may be too heavy. When looking at back packs, choose lightly as even the bags themselves can lend unneeded weight to your little’s frame. Be sure that the straps are durable and padded so it’s as comfortable as can be.
Additionally, there are a few other things you can do:
1. Make sure your child knows that they need to wear both straps.
Often to look ‘cool’ or ‘casual’ kiddos will wear bags using only one strap across the shoulder. This is dangerous as it offsets the balance and can cause poor posture to form as they do so on a regular basis. Make sure they know it’s important to wear them balanced. In that? Avoid buying bags that only have one strap anyway, no matter how cool it looks.
2. Think about a rolling book bag.
Now, not every school will allow these, though it is in the best interest of older children who are carrying many heavy books from class to class. Check with your school and ask about the policies, particularly if the bags are only used in halls for transportation. It’s worth looking into to reduce pressure on your child’s spine!
3. Discuss proper packing.
Sometimes, kids will put all the things in their bag at the beginning of the day so they don’t have to go back to lockers or cubbies, or wherever it is that they could leave things. Have conversations about what really needs to be in the bag on a daily basis, and make sure you clean the bag out regularly so that only the necessities are in. Also, if it’s a light load day? Talk to your child about possibly just carrying the few things they need in arms that day to give their back a break.
4. Make sure your child’s mattress is a good one.
I know, it’s hard to spend mega-bucks on a nice mattress for your kid when they seem perfectly content to sleep anywhere they can, and in the most awkward of positions. But experts say that especially for littles with developing spines, a comfortable mattress that will encourage appropriate spine health and growth is just as important to them as it is to you. Consider it an investment in their proper growth!
5. Insist on proper posture.
Again, I get it! It’s hard to make sure your child is always using proper posture, especially as they are still so flexible and sit in all sorts of weird positions. But proper posture is pivotal, and it’s a habit that will serve them well through life as it helps lead to fewer back aches and pain. Always discourage ‘w’ sitting (where their knees sit facing each other in a ‘w’ shape) and even if they are sitting ‘criss-cross’, be sure that they are not slouching and there is a nice, gentle arch in their back with shoulders sloped forward.
Encourage exercises that will strengthen the psoas muscle, and watch the difference!
If your child tells you his/her back or neck or shoulders are hurting, even after trying to lighten loads, consider seeing your pediatrician, chiropractor or physical therapist. Those growing bones are critical to good health, and a clinician may be able to give specific solutions for your child’s well-being!