Back To School
Back to School: How to Take Care of Your Child’s Spine
With schools soon returning to normal, it’s important to help support your child’s spinal health as they make the transition back to normal school life. With new technology and greater demands on students in these modern times, there are many factors to consider and manage to ensure optimal posture and health for your child. In particular, however, the school backpack is a vital part of everyday school life. In this article, we examine steps that can be taken to care for your child’s spine, with a particular emphasis on what backpack to choose and how it should be best used!
There are many factors that determine the right backpack for a child. In particular, it must be the correct size – it should never be too low or wide for the child, while the shoulder straps need to have width, and have adequate padding. Wearing the backpack in an even way (in other words, with both straps on, not slung over one shoulder!) is also important.
For a fuller list of recommendations, the Chiropractors Association of Victoria, Australia suggests that:
- Backpacks should be no heavier than 10-15% of the child’s body weight when packed.
- The backpack should be sturdy and appropriately sized - no wider than the child’s chest.
- Putting comfort and fit at the top of the priority list, rather than good looks.
- Using the waist straps attached – they’re there for a very good reason.
- Not wearing the backpack any lower than the hollow of the lower back
- Not overloading the backpack – use school lockers and plan homework well in advance.
- Placing all heavy items at the base of the pack, close to the spine.
- Using compression straps and also using the inner pockets rather than the outermost pockets, to keep the load close to the spine.
Incorporating these elements will ensure that the backpack performs as it should, and avoid any negative side effects from overly heavy, misaligned or badly worn bags. Developing bad posture, especially sloping forward or tilting, can distort the curvature of the spine. We don’t normally think about children suffering from back pain but setting in place good habits at a young age will help ensure against many causes of pain in later life.
There are many other ways to support spinal health for your child. In Chiropractic, the view of the interconnectedness between the function of the spine and nervous system, and therefore to general health, is foundational to all chiropractic care. For this reason, here are other suggestions for supporting the spinal and general health of your child:
Avoiding text neck
Technology these days, especially the mobile phone, encourages a slouched position when using devices. ‘text neck’ is the outcome of a slumped over form while being on a phone and is something best avoided. Remind your child to sit up straight or limit the amount of time spent texting where possible.
Sitting up straight at the desk
Sitting correctly at a desk is really important for all students. This is a habit that is great to develop at a young age, as bad habits can cause strain and stress on the spine, affecting the nervous system and other aspects of the body over time.
Maintaining a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water
Given that spinal health is very related to the overall health of the individual, it is very important to maintain a healthy overall diet that avoids processed foods, sugars and excess red meat consumption. Plenty of hydration also helps joints to work well and supports the proper functioning of the body more generally.
Getting an hour of exercise per day
With rising obesity and related health problems in children, it is more important than ever for parents to encourage regular activity for their children. It’s also vital to encourage the right types of activity. A great way to start is through walking to school. Just ensure that the child isn’t carrying too much weight on their back as they do this! Also, encourage your child to wear the backpack correctly - the way a bag is carried can change walking patterns as well as altering standing postures.
Getting enough sleep
Sleep is when the body heals, and is essential for the body’s immunity, mood, cognitive function, amongst many other functions. A good sleep over enough hours is vital to good health, and this means avoiding screens before bed and being sure to get into bed on time!
It is generally a good idea to have your child assessed young, if they are experiencing pain or discomfort, as this can make a huge difference.
When symptoms do present in young people, they may initially seem mild and generalised in the back, neck and shoulders and can be dismissed. But repeated bad posture or poor practices over the school life of a child may lead to spinal injury and symptoms.
Remember: what your child does each day affects the way their body grows and develops, and the health habits they will maintain for life. By establishing good practices, they are able to set into place the things they need for a long, healthy, pain-free future. For this reason, do not forget the role your local practitioner can play – your chiropractor can give plenty of advice about exercise, backpacks and lots of other aspects of daily health, and can also assess spinal function in your child to avoid problems down the line.