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Back-to-School Backpack Basics

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All over Denton County, parents, grandparents and caretakers alike are making their lists and checking them twice. No, we are not talking holidays here – although it might feel like it to some. We are talking Back-to-School.

Construction paper, Elmer’s glue, red pens, pink erasers, pencil boxes, lunch-kits are all in demand, as is what could be the most important item… a backpack in which to carry all the supplies. Whether it is iCarly, Sponge-Bob, or just plain blue, this essential item can have a lasting effect on the school year – and possibly well into life after education.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year an average of 7,417 reports to emergency rooms across the country are directly attributable to improper usage of  backpacks – an interesting figure when you factor over half of those reports were for children ages 2-18 and those only from ER statistics. One can imagine that with visits to family practitioners and chiropractors, this number is actually much higher.

Dr. Keith Johnson, a 25 year veteran of chiropractic care who recently joined Parker College at their newest facility – Parker Chiropractic Wellness Center – in Flower Mound, is familiar with the effects caused by poor backpack usage. He has seen middle school children toting backpacks weighing in excess of 50 pounds – too great a burden for young, growing bodies to bear – and is concerned about the lasting effects.
 
“Children bounce back quickly.” Dr. Johnson has said regarding the sprain and strain of carrying such a heavy load; and he is concerned about the lasting effects that might not be evident until later in life. “It is not about how [a child] feels today, but what are they doing to themselves in the long-run.” Some adults with chronic back pain might be able to trace the source of their pain to carrying disproportionate amounts of weight in their backpacks as children – often slung over one shoulder.

As parents and caretakers of these children, it is our responsibility to learn the most beneficial way to use this often needed school-year staple, and to set a good example for those who look to us for guidance. Dr. Johnson recommends following tips provided by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) to help prevent needless pain that backpack misuse can cause students in your household:

• Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack causes 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 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 rests on your child’s back.

• Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child carries – and the heavier the backpack is.

• 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.

Dr. Johnson and the team at Parker Chiropractic Wellness Center provide a family-focused practice treating Mom, Dad and kids, and offer chiropractic care for sports injuries, school physicals, and much more. Dr. Johnson sees this last item as a way to “nipping [problems] in the bud.” They offer counsel to parents and children in effort to prevent issues related to improper backpack usage and provide options and resources, helping patients lead happier, healthier lives.

For more information or to become a patient at the wellness center located at 1190 Parker Square, please call 972-438-9355.

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