Between video games, heavy backpacks and overweight children, postural related injuries are on the increase. Understanding what to look for and how to treat poor posture is the key to the prevention of these injuries.
Look at your child. Does she carry her head over her shoulders or does she have a forward head posture? Are her shoulders rounded? These are the two major signs that your child may be developing a postural problem.
Left untreated, postural problems can lead to headaches, shoulder pain, and even early osteoarthritis. In my practice here in Red Bank, I have seen posture-related arthritis in adults as young as 21.
Using a backpack the right way can prevent postural problems. Backpacks that are too heavy or are worn incorrectly produce a significant amount of stress on the muscles and joints in the back and shoulders. Share these guidelines to help your family use backpacks safely.
Choose the right backpack. Look for the following:
• Wide, padded shoulder straps — Narrow straps can dig into shoulders. This can cause pain and restrict circulation.
• Two shoulder straps — Backpacks with one shoulder strap that runs across the body cannot distribute weight evenly.
• Padded back — A padded back protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
• Waist strap — A waist strap can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly.
• Lightweight backpack — The backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.
To prevent injury when using a backpack, do the following:
• Pack light – The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s total body weight.
• Always use both shoulder straps – Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may increase curvature of the spine.
• Tighten straps – Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. The straps should hold the pack two inches above the waist.
• Stop often at school lockers – If possible, do not carry all of the books needed for the day.
• Learn back-strengthening exercises – Build up the muscles used to carry a backpack.
• Ask your chiropractor for advice.