The American Chiropractic Association offers tips to help prevent back and neck pain caused by overstuffed backpacks and poor texting technique.
Today’s students are susceptible to a range of musculoskeletal injuries, such as neck and back pain, as a result of some of the equipment and devices they frequently use: backpacks, smartphones and other mobile devices. As the end of summer approaches, parents can help their children avoid the “aches and pains” of going back to school by providing some practical advice, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
Problems associated with kids lugging overstuffed or ill-fitting backpacks are not new. Statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission show that more than 14,000 children are treated annually for backpack-related injuries. More recently, reports of injuries associated with overuse of smartphones have garnered media attention. This raises concern for parents in light of a recent survey by Common Sense Media, which found that more than 50 percent of teens think they are addicted to their smartphones.
“With repetition, poor habits formed during the developing years can result in harmful physical effects that may last a lifetime,” says Scott Bautch, DC, president of the ACA Council on Occupational Health.
With this in mind, doctors of chiropractic (DCs) offer simple injury-prevention tips parents can share with their children to keep them healthy and pain-free:
1. Limit a backpack’s weight to no more than 5 to 10 percent of the child’s 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 using the straps.
2. A 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.
3. Urge your child to wear both of the backpack’s straps—not to sling it over one shoulder as is common. 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.
4. Make sure the straps on your child’s backpack are wide and padded to ensure less strain and optimal comfort.
5. To avoid strain when texting on a smartphone, encourage children to bring their arms up in front of their eyes so that they don’t need to look down to see the screen. If they do look down, they should tuck in their chin rather than dropping the entire head forward.
6. Kids should avoid using mobile devices while in bright sunlight. Straining to see the screen can lead to the chin jutting forward, shifting work from the spine to the muscles that hold up the head.
7. Limit a child’s screen time, and make sure he or she takes periodic stretch breaks. Kids should balance sedentary screen time with regular physical activity.
SOURCE: The American Chiropractic Association (ACA)