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Back pack basics

Bag your books with style and safety in mind

As the school year begins, with it come concerns for child health. There are shots and screenings, allergy medications and eyeglass fittings. But one malady is carried home every day, on the backs of kids across the suburbs.

The American Occupational Therapy Association claims that more than 50 percent of students aged 9 to 20 have chronic back pain from over-packed or poorly-packed backpacks. What’s a concerned parent to do? Dr. Mike DeCubellis of Main Street Chiropractic in Downers Grove offers advice to reduce back stress and protect children’s growing bodies.

Q – There are a lot of styles of backpacks out there, from standard two strap on your back styles to satchel across the body styles to slings. What's the best for good back health?

A – “The hands down best is a rolling back that can be pulled. I know this is not very popular, but this hands down puts the least stress on your body. While it may not look the best, if you have to wear a backpack its best to wear it in front. This allows you to keep your proper cervical (neck) curve. This does put more stress on your lower back, but these muscles are stronger, discs are bigger, and vertebrae are bigger and made to carry more load then your neck.

Satchel type packs and one strap packs put all the weight on one shoulder, not allowing it to be equally distributed between sides. It’s best to make sure to alter sides you carry these packs on, just like a purse. These can also be harder to use as the typically carry less then other pack options.”

Q – What do parents need to know when purchasing a bag for their kids, and using it daily?

 A – “Make sure the straps are set properly and even from side to side. Also, parents should look for any way to reduce backpack overall weight. If it’s possible to use a locker and decrease the amount they are hauling around all day, this will make a huge impact. If books aren't essential, leave them at home or at school. Also, find out if any textbooks are available in digital format. Some schools have gone this route while others haven't, but always worth it to ask.”

Q – A lot of kids are carrying way too much weight for their frames. If we can't change that, what can we do for our kids to compensate for the stress it puts on their spines?

A – “The problem is the weight shifts your center of gravity, changing the bodies bio-mechanics to keep from falling over. This eventually starts to change the curves of the neck and low back. Having proper check-ups with a chiropractor can help avoid these, and home stretches and exercises can be discusses, as these need to be individualized based on each person and their situation.

Q – In general, is there a weight to carry that's appropriate?

A – This is going to be different for each individual as body mass and build differ. The best is always to reduce the weight as much as possible to be safe.

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