OSWEGO, NY – While driving to the office one day, I saw a small child walking up a hill to school carrying an obviously overloaded book bag.
He was hunchedÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â in order to avoid falling over.
As a chiropractor interested in the health of peopleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s spinal columns, I am very concerned when I see children toting heavy book bags to and from school.
When you observe the gait of these children you notice the compensations they are making to tote the load.
It is the rare child, if you observe for awhile, that stands erect while loaded down.
You see some are leaning to one side, some are leaning forward so it appears the load is pushing them and some arch their backs, depending upon weather they are carrying the load by two straps on their back or slung over their shoulder with one strap.
This greatly fatigues the muscles of the back and shoulders which can lead to injury.
I have been asked how to recognize when a child is physically stressed by the weight they are carrying.
There are several signs.
One sign is stated above but bears repeating.
Watch the childÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s gait and posture.
Also, notice the effort with which the child maneuvers theÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â weight.
If they are struggling to get the backpack on and they let it slide off their shoulders and land with a thud that is a major indicator.
Some children will have indentations for a short time where the straps rested.
Some children present with tingling in their arms or fingers.
Any one of these signs is an indicator that the child needs help.
The first step is to weigh the loaded backpack.
You might be very surprised at how heavy it really is.
The American Chiropractic Association and The American College of Orthopedic Surgeons are very clear that the optimal weight not exceed 10% of a childÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s weight, 15% at the most.
For example A 60 pound child should carry no more than 6-9 pounds.
The probability is very high that your childÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s backpack is well in excess off this weight.
What can be done, for the reality is that a child must carry home books, other tools and instruments?
Prevention is the best approach.
The child must be provided with the proper pack and educated on how to properly use it.
Make sure your child has the properÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â backpack.
Double, adjustable straps which are thickly padded are recommended as they do not dig into the shoulders, distribute the weight more evenly and can be adjusted to the length of the torso.
The length of the bag should not be more than 3-4 inches from the waist.
The size of the backpack should be tailored to the size of the child and their needs.
A very large bag begs to have more put into it.
Some backpacks are one large, yawning pouch.
It is much better to get one that has compartments which, here again, distributes the weight more evenly.
One of the newer rages are the backpacks on wheels.
They need to be decided upon carefully.
Several factors must be taken into account.
First, they are designed to pull with one hand.
When the rolling backpack is overloaded the childÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â is pulling a large weight on one side of the body.
This uneven pullingÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â can lead to injury to the neck and shoulders.
Secondly, the wheels are often too close together and lead to uneven rocking when they are pulled, which can lead to further stress.
Thirdly, rolling back packs can pose a trip hazard for the child and others around them when walking in the crowded hallways.
Lastly, it has been shared with me, by teachers, that they seeÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â many children put the handle down and carry the backpack by the handle.
This is very poor body mechanics which can result in injury.
Once the backpack is purchased, help your childÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â pack it properly.
Encourage them to neverÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â put the pack on and have a classmate fill it as the weight can more easily exceed desirable limits.
Pack the heaviest books in the back.
Distribute books and tools amongst the compartments.
Encourage your children to wear the backpack with both straps rather than slinging it over one shoulder.
At night, go through the backpack with your children.
Take out unnecessary objects.
Teach your children to keep and check an assignment pad thus bringing home only the necessary books.
Encourage them, if they have homework time in school, to do the work first in the heaviest books.
These strategies could greatly minimize the load at night.
Educate your child about proper lifting techniques.
Approach the backpack straight on.
Keep your back straight and bend at the knees.
Do not lift with your back, rather lift with your legs.
Move the load in a slow, steady motion toward your back and shoulders.
If that is not possible without jerking, the load is too heavy.
The perception quite frequently is that a child is an adult in miniature.
This is very incorrect.
Children are experiencing physical growth both spinal and motor.
Over time, poor posture can lead to skeletal deformities, muscle weaknesses and neurological problems.
When children are growing the bones are growing.
The stress placed on the bones helps determine where bones will grow in width, length and thickness.
When the development is effected ,it can lead to joint problems since a joint is formed by two or more bones connected by ligaments.
Poor posture can lead to muscular imbalances, due to strength imbalances.
Improper posture or carriage can lead to irritated soft tissue such as muscle, tendons and ligaments.
This, in turn, can lead to inflammatory processes that can cause nerve irritation at the various points, particularly the intervertebral foramen, the space where nerves exit the spinal column between two vertebrae.
In paragraph two, I talked about signs of physical stress.
If the suggestions do not alleviate the problems, chiropractic care can help by providing high speed, low amplitude adjustments to the specific vertebrae to correct spinal subluxations.
The corrections of the misalignments will aid the reduction of stress on the skelton and soft tissue of the patient.
In addition the patient will be educated on correct posture and proper biomechanics.
The education is equally important to prevent future reoccurrences and re-injury.
Dr. McCaffrey operates McCaffrey Chiropractic on 184 W. Fourth. St.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The practice number is 342-3877.