Back-to-school tips for avoiding injuries
As the school year gets underway and you’re buying new school supplies for your kids, there are many things to consider. While your child may be thinking about the coolest brands or the latest trends, Dr. Anisha Shetty, an Advocate Children’s Medical Group pediatrician at Dreyer in Aurora, Ill., says there are some important health-related factors you should keep in mind when it comes to picking a backpack.
“Backpacks that are too heavy or are worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers,” Dr. Shetty says. “Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints. This can lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.”
Picking a backpack that is lightweight with many compartments to help distribute the weight can also be helpful. She advises parents that backpacks should be worn using both shoulder straps, which should be padded.
She also says parents should make sure their child’s backpack weighs no more than 10 to 20 percent of their body weight and suggests purchasing a small to medium sized backpack, because the more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry.
To prevent injury when using a backpack, Dr. Shetty recommends the following tips:
- Your child’s backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline.
- Tighten the straps to keep the load closer to the back.
- Organize the items: pack heavier things low and towards the center.
- Pack light, removing items if the backpack is too heavy. Carry only those items that are required for the day, and if possible, leave unnecessary books at home or school.
- Lift properly by bending at the knees when picking up a backpack.
Dr. Shetty also offers this advice for parents:
- Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about numbness, tingling or discomfort in the arms or legs, which may indicate poor backpack fit or too much weight being carried.
- Watch your child put on or take off their backpack to see if it is a struggle. If the backpack seems too heavy for the child, have them remove some of the books and carry them in their arms to ease the load on their back.
- Do not ignore any back pain in a child or teenager.
- Talk to the school about lightening the load. Team up with other parents to encourage changes.
- Encourage your child to stop at his or her locker when time permits throughout the day to drop off or exchange heavier books.
- If your child has back pain that does not improve, consider buying a second set of textbooks to keep at home.
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