“Parents need to be aware of the dangers of a heavy backpack and educate their children on backpack safety. By knowing the best type of backpack to buy and the correct way to wear it, you can help your kids prevent injury.”
Now that our kids are back in the school routine, they’re coming home daily heaving heavy binders and textbooks on their shoulders. As parents, it’s important for us to understand how we can best help protect our children from developing back pain.
I recently spoke with Dr Kenneth K Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, about preventative back care for kids. He explains the importance of issues, such as poor posture and heavy backpacks, so parents can step in to help:
Can you explain backpack safety more in-depth? For example, how do you properly wear a backpack? What’s the best way that puts the least amount of strain on the spine and shoulders?
Use both straps of the bag to help evenly distribute the load and force onto the shoulders, and equally on both sides of the body. The backpack should be kept close to the spine for comfort and optimal positioning. Often, we see that kids swing the backpack over one shoulder to appear cool, but that has negative effects on the body, due to uneven weight distribution. It puts twice the pressure from the load onto one side of the body.
When it comes to backpack safety and choosing a backpack, what should parents and kids keep in mind?
Look for a backpack that is lightweight and offers double straps for proper support and equal weight distribution, to help minimize the load that kids will need to carry.
Can you share a few simple stretches and strengthening exercises that can be fun for children and teens?
The biggest thing children and teens need to keep in mind is that they must activate their core muscles and strengthen them to grant their bodies the ability to carry the load. The stronger the abdominal and back muscles, the better their bodies will be able to carry the weight and keep their spines healthy. For exercises, focus on building the core through lunges, planks and partial sit-ups.
What are some ways kids can practice good posture? Any tips?
Proper posture is the key to a healthy back and an important part of backpack safety. I always recommend two simple things to keep in mind to adjust yourself to the right posture: ears above the shoulders and angel wings back. Having the spine in a neutral position is the most efficient position to carry stresses.
It can be difficult to convince your kids to wear their backpacks on both shoulders when everyone else has theirs hanging off one side, or they are in a hurry. Sometimes it’s easier for them to listen to someone other than their parents. Instead of nagging, try showing them Dr Hansraj’s advice about balance, posture and strengthening the core to avoid back pain.