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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tips To Help Prevent Health Effects Due to School Backpack

This article would help you learn how 'school backpack' can be a cause of serious back pain or other injuries. You can learn 'how it happens, how to choose backpack and guideline of proper use of backpack.

Do you know that 'National School Backpack Awareness Day is September 17'?
National School Backpack Awareness Day is an annual event held in September. Across the country, events are being held to educate parents, students, teachers and school administrators, and communities about the serious health effects on children from backpacks that are too heavy or worn improperly.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission there were more than 21,000 backpack-related injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices, and clinics in the year 2003. Injuries ranged from contusions, to sprains and strains to the back and shoulder, and fractures.

Back pain it a normal complaint among adults, but a new but disturbing trend is emerging. Young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).

This new back pain trend among youngsters isn't surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks - often slung over just one shoulder. According to Dr. Bautch, a recent study conducted in Italy found that the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man, or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman. Of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result.

To help understand how heavy backpacks can affect a kid's body, it helps to understand how the back works. The spine is made of 33 bones called vertebrae, and between the vertebrae are discs that act as natural shock absorbers.

When a heavy weight, such as a backpack filled with books, is incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the weight's force can pull a child backward. To compensate, a child may bend forward at the hips or arch the back, which can cause the spine to compress unnaturally. The heavy weight might cause some kids to develop shoulder, neck, and back pain.

Few facts about back packs:

- In one study with American students, 6 out of 10 students, ages 9 to 20, reported chronic back pain related to heavy backpacks. Among students who carried backpacks weighing 15% of their body weight or less, only 2 in 10 reported pain.

- The way backpacks are worn has an impact. Lower positioning of the backpack approximates the body's center of gravity and has the least effect on posture.

- In a study on the effect of backpack education on student behavior and health, nearly 8 out of 10 middle-school students who changed how they loaded and wore their backpacks reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks, and shoulders

Warning signs a backpack is too heavy:

- Change in posture when wearing the backpack
- Struggling when putting on or taking off the backpack
- Pain when wearing the backpack
- Tingling or numbness
- Red marks

Kids who wear their backpacks over just one shoulder — as many do, because they think it looks better — may end up leaning to one side to offset the extra weight. They might develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck.

According to Dr. Bautch, preliminary results of studies being conducted in France show that the longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for a curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself. "The question that needs to be addressed next is, 'Does it ever return to normal?'" Dr. Bautch added.

According to a University of Michigan study, up to 60% of children will experience back pain by the time they reach age 18. Keeping kids healthy is a full time job. Reducing the stress on their spine can help make that job a little easier. Here are a few simple guidelines to follow when picking out the backpack for the year.future problems from developing.
Functionality and safety are much more important than fashion. Your children may not like your decision right now, but tell them they will appreciate it when they are 40. You can always blame it on us too!

What Can You Do?
The ACA offers the following tips to help prevent the needless pain that backpack misuse could cause the students in your household.

TIPS:

* Make sure your child's backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.

* The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child 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 your child's back.

* Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry-and the heavier the backpack will be.

* Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.

* Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child's shoulders.

* The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child's body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.

* If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child's teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.

* Although the use of rollerpacks - or backpacks on wheels - has become popular in recent years, the ACA is now recommending that they be used cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack. Some school districts have begun banning the use of rollerpacks because they clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous trips and falls.

If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call your doctor of chiropractic. Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In addition, doctors of chiropractic can also prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.

Source: American Chiropractic Association (ACA)

Related studies and articles:

- Backpack safety tips at 'Kids health'

- A useful article from "Web md": Which backpacks are safest for kids, and how to wear backpacks to avoid aches and pains?

- Backpack-related injuries in children

- AOTA has produced a homework tip sheet for parents, to provide strategies that assist families manage the ever-increasing load of homework. We want to show how practitioners can help families live life to its fullest.
Get the pdf version of : Home work tips sheets

- School backpack purchasing guidelines
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