SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- The school year is officially back in session.
That means heavy bookbags, stuffed with books, supplies and whatever gear they need to get through their day.
It's a problem you wouldn't expect in children--back and shoulder pain.
But with weighted loads on their back, it's something you might see.
Dr. Gary Meek of Meek Chiropractic says if there back hurts, the improper gear could be the culprit.
So when it comes to gear for your student he says to keep the following in mind:
- Lightweight backpack Make sure backpacks are lightweight and easy to carry. A bag shouldn't weigh more than 10%-15% of a child's body weight.
- Heaviest items go in the back of the bag When packing your backpack, be sure to pack your more substantial items in the back, like your laptops, heavy textbooks, and tablets. Things like your sweatshirts, pencil cases, and calculators should be in front of your backpacks. Doing so will help prevent improper posture.
- Use both straps Safety trumps "swag" every time. Be sure to use both shoulder straps when wearing your backpack to prevent muscle soreness and pain.
"[When you use] one shoulder strap, you'll tend to bend to one side, and it ends up changing the curves of the spine," Dr. Meek explains.
Meek says another way to ensure proper backpack safety is to make sure the bottom of the backpack sits right at the waist.
It's a good idea to have straps that go across the body for that extra support.
Also, keep an eye on your child bags to make sure they are not over-stuffing them and causing injury.
"The one bad thing about it is that you can get back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and arm complaints from wearing a backpack," Meek explains. "If they don't wear it properly, it increases their chances of injury, and it changes their posture,"
To also reduce chances of injury look for bags with padding on the shoulders.
While many students use backpacks regularly, even more, use technology. The constant use of it can cause not only mental stress, but also physical impact and a condition called 'tech neck.'
Dr. Gary Meek says "tech neck" is a stress injury that occurs as a result of continuous or frequent use of everyday technology.
It can develop when your neck is in a forward, flexed, or head-down position for an extended amount of time.
Tech neck can cause headaches, pain, or stiffness in the neck, upper back, or even your shoulders. Along with pain, numbness, or tingling in your arms or hands, making it difficult to concentrate in class or at work.
Dr. Meek says it's becoming more and more common in children and teens.
"I used to see two-thirds low back complaints and about one-third neck and upper back complaints," explains Dr. Meek. "We've seen that gap close, and probably the biggest reason for that is the average person is spending three to four hours a day looking down."
Meek says there are a few ways to avoid tech neck:
-Take frequent breaks Try to take short breaks every 15 to 20 minutes so you can realign your spine and give your neck and upper back a chance to relax.
- Keep the screen at eye level If you're at your desk or using your phone, make sure your screen is at eye-level. Try readjusting your monitor at your desk or your chair so that you won't strain your neck.
- Be aware of body positioning Be mindful of your posture when you're sitting or looking down. It's a good idea to practice good posture when you can, and get into the habit of sitting up and keeping your head up.
- Be sure to stretch It's always a good idea to stretch your neck and back muscles regularly it will reduce your risk for pain and injury.
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