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Students should be backpack-smart to avoid pain

With school under way again, it's important for children to avoid the dangers of heavy or improperly worn backpacks.

While wearing packs has become the norm for many kids, the Consumer Products Safety Commission has documented backpack problems for several years, said Douglas Taber, DC, of UHS Chiropractic.

Use of the packs can contribute to increased visits to doctor's offices for children, because the extra stress placed on the spine and shoulders from the heavy loads can cause unnecessary medical problems, according to Dr. Taber.

"The start of the school year is a great time to make sure your child is taking the right precautions," he said.

Dr. Taber advises the following:

  • Guidelines tell us that your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 5 to 10 percent of their body weight. A heavier backpack will cause them to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on their back, rather than on the shoulders by the straps.
  • It is also important that the backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline, as a backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing the youngster to lean forward when walking.
  • A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively; make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on the child's back.
  • Wide, padded straps are very important, and a backpack-wearer should always wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms and low-back pain.

For information on services available at UHS Chiropractic, click here.

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