While you may not realize it, many kids develop back pain during the school year. Heavy backpacks, poor posture and ergonomics, and lack of physical activity can all be contributing factors. However, Casey Jo Hill, physical therapist with Rehabilitation Services–Palmer Township, says there are ways for parents to help children maintain their back health during the school year.
Watch the recording of our virtual info session for parents on back pain below and read on for a written summary.
Make physical activity important
During the summer, kids tend to be more active. Keep that trend going throughout the school year to promote good back health. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, children ages 3 to 5 should be physically active to enhance growth and development, and children ages 6 through 17 should do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous activity daily.
“Help your children find an activity they enjoy and then encourage them to be active through that activity. It’s easier for kids to be active when they are enjoying what they do,” says Hill.
Practice good posture
According to Hill, posture is more than how a person sits or stands; it’s how he or she moves in general. “Our bodies are meant to move. We generally assess the alignment of your head, shoulders, back and ankles. This gives us an idea of how your muscles are holding your body in line,” says Hill.
Double-check your child’s workspace setup
How your child sits at his/her desk in school or at home can make a big difference in back health. Hill encourages parents to double-check on their kids and watch how they are sitting at home. She also has some tips for parents to share with their kids.
- Position materials at eye level at approximately an arm’s length away.
- Don’t lean to one side.
- Take frequent movement breaks.
- Encourage the natural S-curve of the spine.
Make sure your child’s backpack is the right fit
When it comes to backpacks, it’s not just the weight that can cause back issues in children. Backpacks that aren’t worn properly or fit correctly also can cause issues. According to Hill,
- The top of the bag should be positioned just below the shoulders, and the bottom should remain above the waist when adjusted.
- Look for backpacks with wide, padded shoulders and discourage kids from wearing the backpack over one shoulder.
- Children’s backpacks should not exceed 10%-15% of their body weight.
“A backpack is really an investment in your children’s health. You want to set them up for a pain-free and easy transition into school. Something they can move or be active with is ideal,” says Hill.