As kids head back to school, time spent lugging books, studying and playing sports can strain to their backs and necks. Before sending your students back with heavy bookbags and full sports schedules, check out these four bad back culprits parents should watch for: backpacks, technology, shoes and sports.

Bshutterstock_121910599ackpacks

Heavy backpacks can cause stress fractures in the back, inflammation of growth cartilage, back and neck strain, and nerve damage in the neck and shoulders. Backpacks should not exceed 10-15 percent of the child’s body weight. That means an 80 lb. child’s backpack should weigh no more than 12 lbs. When extra books or clothing, a musical instrument, water bottles or sports equipment are added, the weight can become too heavy for their still-forming bones and muscles.

TIPS

Invest in a good backpack – one with padded shoulders, padded back, and a waist belt if your child will use it. Watch your child’s posture when she takes off the backpack. Twisting to remove a backpack can strain developing vertebrae and muscles and cause long-term orthopedic problems.

Technology

Television, computers, cell phones and other gadgets can keep children entertained for hours without them ever getting up! This sedentary lifestyle is a contributing factor to the epidemic of back pain Americans experience today. To alleviate this problem, make sure your child takes frequent breaks when spending a great deal of time in front a television, computer, or desk. Correcting your child’s posture as she sits at the computer desk or in front of the television can go a long way in preventing future back-related issues.

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Require that at least some of your child’s free time includes physical activity. Set a time limit for video games and TV and encourage your child to get up and move around at least once per hour. A simple walk after dinner can improve back strength and will help your child sleep more soundly. Limit their time spent on tablets and smartphones to less than 30 minutes at a time. Extended use of these devices often lead to poor posture and back, shoulder or neck cramps.

Shoes

A child’s growing foot needs proper support throughout a long school day. So slippers and flip-flops simply won’t suffice. Flimsy footwear with no arch support can lead to flat feet, aching ankles, bad posture, hip problems and weaken the intrinsic muscles of the foot, legs and lower back.

Cross training shoes are the best option for protecting children against backaches, as they hug the foot, offer support, and keep the foot firmly in place. Basketball shoes, Boat shoes, and skateboard shoes tend to be too soft which can cause flat feet and lead to back pain. The toe box of the shoe should be roomy and wide enough for the toes to wiggle.

TIPS

Consider a store that specializes in shoes for growing feet. As finding a proper fit is important. Check your child’s shoes regularly as they might have outgrown the shoe or worn them out. Make sure to replace children’s shoes every six months.

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Sports and physical exercise play an important part in a child’s development. Bones, muscles and tendons require regular, rigorous engagement in order to form properly and grow stronger. Sports can also lead to back and neck injuries, so it’s important to make sure children have the appropriate equipment. Children should be prepared with warm-ups and training sessions before games. This will help ensure that your child has fun and reduce the chances of an injury. Remember to be prepared and safety first!

TIPS

Proper footwear is necessary when performing strenuous activity. Wear shoes that support the ankle and foot to prevent sprains and falls. Make sure your child stretches and warm-ups slowly for 5-10 minutes before any rigorous athletic activity.

Source: www.jrn.com; August 19, 2014.