3 tips to avoid back pain as children head back to school

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3 tips to avoid back pain as children head back to school

Toronto, September 1, 2015

By Corinne Ton That

It’s back-to-school season and for many students that means lugging heavy bags filled with homework, books, water bottles and packed lunches.

“If the backpacks aren’t worn properly, that can potentially lead to back pain and strains,” said Dr. Igor Steiman, a chiropractor at St. Michael’s Hospital.

Here are a few tips to help decrease the risk of back problems.

Choose the right bag and pack it light

When choosing a backpack, Dr. Steiman recommends picking a durable, water-repellant bag with wide, adjustable padded shoulder and waist straps that keep the bag close to the body. The Ontario Chiropractic Association recommends opting for vinyl or canvas bags as opposed to leather bags, which tend to be heavier. The bag should fit snugly around the arms and should be proportionate to the child’s size.

Bags should be between 10 and 15 per cent of the wearer’s body weight – preferably closer to 10 per cent for younger children. Heavier items should be packed closer to the spine, with bulkier but lighter items further away from the back, so that trunk muscles are able to properly support the weight.

Wear it right

Children should use their core and spinal muscles to avoid straining their shoulders and back – that means wearing the backpack with both straps over the shoulders, and keeping the contents of the bag close to the body.

“Using the backpack with just one strap slung over the shoulder will start to weigh kids down and they might develop strains and crooked posture,” said Dr. Steiman. “If students don’t use that waist strap, they’ll probably find their muscles are working more to support the weight, especially if they’re wearing the bag for a long period of time and walking with it.”

Dr. Steiman said wearing backpacks properly can help ward off back problems as kids get older.

Limber up

“Children should be active—going out for walks and doing specific exercises that stretch out the back, shoulder and neck muscles used to carry the heavy backpacks throughout the day,” said Dr. Steiman.

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but following Dr. Steiman’s simple tips may also keep away the chiropractor.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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