With the new school year here, parents might think about measures to protect their children’s spinal health, an expert says.
“Parents should be attentive to the amount of time children devote to their devices, be sure they are using their backpacks appropriately, and take any complaint of back pain seriously,” said Dr. Hargovind Dewal, an orthopedic surgeon with Long Island Spine Specialists and the Peconic Bay Medical Center in New York.
Limit backpack weight to 10 to 15 percent of the child’s body weight, he advised. For example, the backpack of a 100-pound child should weigh no more than 10 to 15 pounds, he said.
Using both shoulder straps will evenly distribute the weight of the backpack, keep the weight close to the body, and help the spine stay aligned, he added.
Research shows that for every inch the head tilts forward, pressure on the spine doubles, Dewal said in a news release. That means children need to take breaks from electronic devices and avoid being hunched over for hours a day.
When using electronic devices, they should look down with their eyes and try not to bend their necks. Encourage them to use the voice option on phones to send text messages, rather than typing, Dewal said.
Regular neck stretching exercises are also helpful. Move the head from left to right several times. Tuck chin to chest, then raise the head. Try to pull the shoulder blades back and down.
Football players should use proper tackling techniques and avoid “spear tackling” or other improper methods that can result in severe injury, he added.
Parents need to remember that back pain in children is unusual. A child who complains of back pain should be evaluated by a doctor, Dewal said.
The American College of Emergency Physicians offers a back-to-school-health checklist.