It’s that time of year again, and despite the extra focus right now on the health and safety of students, it can be easy to overlook the more traditional injuries that kids face. Going back to school means changing lifestyle, and it’s important to prepare young kids and teenagers alike with proper equipment and habits.
Let’s take a look at the major ways you can keep your youngsters safe:
Issue #1: Backpacks
It’s no secret that carrying heavy backpacks can cause back issues – everything from mild discomfort, to headaches, to chronic back pain. Over half of children face these problems at some point. So choosing the appropriate backpack for your child and educating them on how to use it properly is crucial.
When shopping for a backpack, look for:
- Proportionality. A backpack should be the appropriate size for your child – essentially covering the width of their back and spanning from their shoulders to the tops of their hips.
- Straps. A good backpack should have two adjustable, wide and padded straps that cushion weight, and that can be tightened to ensure proper weight distribution. Single strap backpacks or backpacks with narrow straps concentrate weight and can interfere with circulation.
- Additional support. Many good backpacks come with sternum or chest straps to help secure the bag, prevent it from swinging around and alleviate some of the pressure on the back.
When packing and wearing a backpack, it’s important to:
- Respect weight limits. A child should not carry more than 10% of their body weight in a backpack. Exceeding this can affect posture and cause spinal compression. Planning ahead will help avoid the need to carry a lot on the same day.
- Pack carefully. Heavier items should be closer to the body and near the bottom of the pack. Empty out the backpack frequently to eliminate unnecessary weight.
- Wear it tightly. Tightening straps and using all available straps – even on short walks – will help prevent injury. Low and loose puts more stress on the spine and discs. Aim for high and tight.
- Remember posture. When wearing a backpack, stand tall with shoulders down and head and neck aligned. It’s important not to hunch over to compensate for too heavy a load.
Issue #2: Posture
Sitting in front of a computer all day, or hunched over a desk or books, will wreak havoc with your child’s posture and potentially cause not only back issues, but also hand and wrist problems and eye strain. To minimize risk as much as possible, encourage your kids to:
- Sit upright, whether at a computer or a desk. Shoulders should be down and pulled back, neck and head aligned and held upright.
- Place screens at eye level. If possible, use adjustable chairs and/or monitors to achieve this, avoiding laptops on the lap wherever possible.
- Keep wrists in a neutral position when typing on a keyboard.
- Take breaks every 30 minutes or so, to rest the eyes, stretch, and take a brief moment to stand and move around.
Issue #3: Activity
Movement fuels healthy bodies, but schools can be very sedentary. Luckily, there are ways to ensure your child gets enough activity, regardless of their preferences:
- Educate them on the importance of stretching, movement breaks, and frequent vigorous exercise. Lead by example, and if possible investigate team sports or active extracurricular activities to help them get enough exercise. Walking to and from school instead of driving can be an easy way to increase their daily activity.
- Equip them with proper footwear to prevent injury when running around – whether in the playground or when playing a sport. Good shoes can prevent slips, falls, sprains, strains, and blisters, and support good posture.
- Encourage safe movement. For example, when picking up their backpack, they should bend their knees and lift with their legs, rather than stooping to pick it up.
It’s impossible to completely avoid all injuries, so if your child is suffering from back pain, headaches, or problems with their wrists, hands, neck, or shoulders, consult with a physician or physiotherapist to get them some relief and prevent these issues from escalating.