Back to school should not be a pain in the back for your child. Deborah A. Mogelof, MD, of Westport Urgent Care, reminds parents that selecting a backpack for your child is key to avoiding back pain and potential future health issues.
"It's important to remember that backpacks that are too heavy can cause arching of the back, bending forward and straining of the back and shoulders, and leaning to one side (especially if student carries pack on one shoulder)," said Dr. Mogelof. "Because children are in the process forming and building bones, it is very important to prevent spinal alignment problems, and spinal disc injuries that can result from a backpack that is too heavy or one that does not fit your child correctly."
According to Dr. Mogelof, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents look for the following when choosing the right backpack:
A lightweight pack that doesn't add a lot of weight to your child's load (for example, even though leather packs look cool, they weigh more than traditional canvas backpacks).
Two wide, padded shoulder straps; straps that are too narrow can dig into shoulders.
A padded back, which not only provides increased comfort, but also protects kids from being poked by sharp edges on objects (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.
A waist belt, which helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.
Multiple compartments, which can help distribute the weight more evenly.
Experts say it is a good idea to make sure your child never carries a backpack that is 15 percent of their body weight or heavier. When fitting your child for a backpack, the bottom of the pack should be aligned on your child's back near an imaginary line extending from your child's belly button around the torso.
"As a parent, backpacks on wheels which look like small, overhead luggage bags may be good options for students who have to lug around really heavy loads of books and supplies, but remember, they're extremely difficult to pull up stairs and to roll through snow. It's also a good idea to check with the school before buying a rolling pack; many schools don't allow them because they can pose a tripping hazard in the hallways," said Dr. Mogelof.
If your child begins to have back pain or severe discomfort in the muscles supporting the back and legs, odds are an improperly fitted or too heavy backpack may be the culprit. If the pain persists or you have questions that need an immediate answer, feel free to contact Dr. Mogelof at Westport Urgent Care for immediate assistance.
Westport Urgent Care provides an alternative to emergency rooms and doctor's offices from their office at 1045 Pond Road East. Westport Urgent Care also offers employers professional services for workers compensation, routine exams, and drug testing. For additional information, call (203) 557-8200, or visit their website at westporturgentcare.com.
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