Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back to School

It's that time of year again. Kids all over are packing up and heading off to another year of school. In our office, this means something special: backpacks!

Have you ever considered the cumulative load put on a child's spine over weeks, months and years of carrying heavy book bags? Suffice it to say, the load is considerable! And with children's bodies still growing, their bones are not a strong as an adult's. This combination of too much weight and no enough support can lead to many kinds of skeletal problems, such as scoliosis, and can pre-dispose a child to injury during regular activities like sports.

For this reason, we are always trying to educate our patients on the proper way to fit their child for a backpack and then teaching the child the right way to wear the backpack. Thankfully for the sanity of chiropractors everywhere, the trend of wearing a backpack on only one shoulder seems to have passed. Still, it is important to remind children to use both straps when wearing their bags. Also, make sure the weight in the bag is well-distributed, with the heavier items at the bottom and nearest the child's back, and without having too much weight on either the left or right side of the bag. Finally, each time the child puts the bag on, they should loosen the straps to get them around their shoulders and then tighten the straps until the bulk of the backpack rest between the base of their neck and the base of their spine.
Incidentally, these same guidelines would benefit adults as well. Too many adults walk around with unbalanced loads on their spines, be it from a messenger bag slung over one shoulder, a briefcase always carried on one side or the dreaded over-sized purse filled to the brim with the weighty paraphernalia of life. These loads take their toll over time and cause neck and back pain and injuries. Next time you pick up your bag, think twice. Ask yourself if there is anything in it you don't really need today. Once you have it at the lightest possible weight, try to make sure you balance the weight's pull on your body.

For those who have adopted the rolling bag trend in an effort to save their neck and shoulders, I salute you. Please bear in mind, however, that the same rules I've listed above apply to you. Keep your bag's weight at a minimum and make sure to switch hands regularly to avoid over-using one arm or another. You can also alternate between pushing and pulling the bag.

I know some of this may seem cumbersome, but a small amount of effort really goes a long way. If you cannot switch your bag's side every block you walk, try switching it every two. Or try having it on one side in the morning and the other at night. Or make the change everyday, with Monday being the right and Tuesday being the left. Find a way to make it work for you!
As always, we're here to help. Please call us at 415-546-1461 for an appointment and we'll be happy to help you fit your child's backpack properly.

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