Back To School – “Pack it Light, Wear it Right”!

By Dr. Jeff Barnett, Chiropractor, OCP Co-director

As a parent of 2 young children, I have to honestly say that I am rejoicing at having my kids back at school.  It’s been a difficult summer for most of us considering the continued stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the severe heatwave and rough fire season in the Okanagan.  The kids have suffered a lot.  So, having them back at school adds some much-needed routine and opportunities to be around their peers.  Back to school also comes some other important considerations.  As a chiropractor, a big one for back to school is the proper use of backpacks.

A heavy or improperly fitted backpack can potentially injure the back, neck, and shoulders, cause numbness in the arms, and reduce blood flow to the surrounding muscles and tissues. They also create poor posture by encouraging the carrier to lean forward and round their shoulders, which reduces the ability to maintain balance and restricts movement.

More than 50 per cent of young people experience at least one episode of low back pain by their teenage years. To prevent back and neck pain from an overloaded backpack, it is important to know the correct way to choose, pack and carry a backpack. Here are some great tips from the Alberta College & Association of Chiropractors:

PICK IT RIGHT

  • Choose a bag made of lightweight material, such as vinyl or canvas.
  • Pick a bag that has two wide, adjustable and padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, a padded back and plenty of pockets.
  • Ensure the bag is proportionate to body size and no larger than needed. The top of the pack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder, and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone.
  • Explore other options like bags with wheels and a pull handle for easy rolling.

PACK IT LIGHT

  • The total weight of the pack should not exceed 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer’s body weight (depending on age). 
  • Make sure the backpack contains only what is needed for the day or activity.
  • Spread the weight throughout the pack.
  • Pack the heaviest items close to the body.

WEAR IT RIGHT

  • Both shoulder straps should always be used and adjusted so the pack fits snugly against the body. You should be able to slide a hand between the backpack and the wearer’s back.
  • The pack should sit two inches above the waist.
  • Never allow your child to sling a backpack over only one shoulder.
  • The waist strap reduces the strain on the back and transfers some of the load to the hips.

To ensure your child’s back is healthy and strong this school year, please consult with one of our health practitioner at OCP. They can teach you and your child how to pack, lift and carry a backpack properly to prevent injury.

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