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Sep 6, 2012

Healthy Living looks at conditions associated with overloaded backpacks

Thousands of students across the country have returned to the classrooms to start the new academic school year. Aside from the spanking new uniforms, sneakers and lunchboxes, students are carrying backpacks overflowing with textbooks.  While the backpacks may ease the heavy weight of books, it can also contribute to a change in the posture of the child. Healthy Living has advice from a Physical Therapist on the proper use of backpacks.

 

Michelle Trejo, Physical Therapist

“Any changes to your additional body weight will actually walk differently, square your shoulders differently and for one day it’s not gonna make a difference but for all the years the children go to school,  it will make a difference and children develop at a different rate everybody is different.”

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

For this reason alone, it is important to pay attention to the amount of weight your child is lagging around. Backpacks of today come in all shapes, sizes, colors & themes. Children usually pick out their own school bag—based on what’s most visually appealing. Physical Therapist Michelle Trejo advises parents to ask themselves: Are the bags your kids choose functional?

 

Michelle Trejo

Michelle Trejo

“Back pack in general what you have to be concerned with is that it they are an added load and children are developing. 20 So you will have to be concerned about the amount weight that you are adding to the back pack, the shape of the child if he’s a small framed child or a large framed child so that the width of the back pack actually covers the back itself. These are the things that you first concern.”

 

But really what’s the worst that can happen?

 

Michelle Trejo

“The worst effect would be that the child actually has to change his posture to compensate of teh added load. Meaning that the back pack is taken behind so obviously the child will tilt forward so what you end up having is head, neck, shoulder & hip issues, they start round out in order to compensate for the added load. When that happens it trickles down to the gait, which means the way you walk. You would have shorter stride, he would try to walk faster; so all of those things would be modified by adding extra load. So the load itself you have to really test if it’s a load that the child can carry.”

 

While, not all children carry back packs for a very long time, some do. This is why Trejo has put together this list of guidelines for parents: Criteria for your child’s backpack.

 

Michelle Trejo

“The main one is to make sure that the child is carrying roughly ten to fifteen pounds of the body weight, that’s the main one. The second one is that girls, by gender obviously the back pack should be a little bit narrower for the girl than it should be for the boys. The other issue is that we have to make sure that the straps have at least a width of two inches. Narrow straps will actually cause constriction in this area and lead to tingling in the arms and shoulder pain. So you want to make sure that the straps are at least two inches. The other thing is if you can make sure that the back pack is padded in the back of it also makes a difference for the child. You want to make sure you get a hip strap and make them use the hip strap because what that does, I know it looks awkward but it is actually very functional in the sense that it keeps the weight close to the body and it doesn’t affect the changes of your torso while you walk. The other thing is to make sure your child uses both straps; most times or teenagers think its cool to walk around with a back pack on one side what it will do is imbalance the body so you’ll do major changes in your trunk to offset that.”

 

Parents of young girls should be most observant since prepubescent girls are more predisposes to scoliosis – curving of the bags. Backpacks should also be made of a light material so there isn’t any more added weight. Teach your child to only pack only what is necessary and to distribute weight evenly. Even picking up your backpack should be done by bending down to lift the weight.

 

Michelle Trejo

“Most times you want to be concerned that the backpack is hanging little bit lower so that it is loading almost in the lumber area and not in the upper part of the back. So the high strapped back pack is not advised? Not really cause actually what that will do is bring your trunk inflection; you’ll be leaning a little bit more forward all the time.”

 

With all these tips parents should minimize any unnecessary backaches or long term issues with their child’s spine. Trejo final advice is to encouraging parents to monitor their child’s growth.

 

Michelle Trejo

“I ask parents that they should have a look and be a little bit more observant, children tend to lose track of the children’s growth…every so often, so one has to look at the back and see what’s going because sometimes with clothes one you don’t see these different changes.”

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