Backpacks: Do It Right
Kids are back in school and that means they're packing extra pounds - on their backs, that is.
More homework and fewer lockers mean school-age children are increasingly required to shoulder the burden of heavy textbooks, which may be more than their growing frames can bear.
While backpacks are generally the best choice, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) urges parents to school their children on how to wear one properly and offers the following tips:
- Wear both straps. Sounds obvious, but even most adults know wearing both straps just isn’t cool. But neither is being waylaid by a serious back injury. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder causes a person to lean to one side to compensate for the uneven weight, thus curving the spine. Over time, this can cause lower- and upper-back pain, strained shoulders and neck, and even possible curvature of the spine.
- Don't carry too much stuff. Even if that means leaving those N’Sync CDs at home. ''A backpack can range anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds - more added weight than the average pregnant woman may have to carry,'' says Phil Witt, P.T., Ph.D., and associate professor of physical therapy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Even when worn properly with both straps, leaning forward to compensate for this extra weight can affect the natural curve in the lower back. Witt recommends carrying no more than 15 to 20 percent of one's body weight. For example, if your child weighs 60 pounds, his backpack should weigh no more than 12 pounds.
- Choose a backpack with wide straps. ''Narrow straps dig painfully in shoulders,'' explains Witt, ''and our nerves are very close to the surface.''
This appeared in ACE FitnessMatters, ACE's official magazine.
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