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Dr. Rick's Health Tip of the Month

May 2000
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Backpack Safety Now Pays Lifelong Dividends

Improper Use of Backpacks Leads to Chronic Back Pain

By Rick Allen, DC

Across the nation, millions of elementary, high school, college and adult students are racing out to the school bus or scurrying to their classes with overstuffed backpacks slung over their shoulders. While carrying a backpack to school each morning might seem harmless enough, it can cause some painful back and neck problems that can last a lifetime for students who don't pack or carry their backpacks properly.

Back pain is pervasive in our society. Eighty percent of all Americans will suffer from it at some point in their lives, and 50 percent of us will suffer from low-back pain this year alone. Low-back pain is the most common health problem experienced by working Americans today, and a condition which costs our nation's economy at least $50 billion a year in lost wages and productivity. Much of this suffering is brought on by bad habits initiated during our younger years -- such as carrying overweight and improperly balanced backpacks to school. The improper use of backpacks can lead to muscle imbalance that could turn into chronic back and neck problems later in life. Like preventative dental care, preventative chiropractic care pays dividends throughout life.

What Can You Do?

  • Keep the load reasonable- not more than 15 percent of body weight.

  • Use a backpack with individualized compartments and adjustable, padded straps.

  • Use a backpack with a padded hip belt for heavier loads.

Did you know ...

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  1. Most children carrying backpacks are loaded down with nearly 40 lbs. of books, sports equipment, clothing, calculators, games, and more.
  2. Spinal damage may be suffered by misusing backpacks.
  3. Prevent potential spinal damage to your child or yourself. Come to our backpack checkup at 6:15 PM Thursday, April 27.
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  • Pack correctly: heavier items at the bottom and sharp objects away from back.

  • Wear both shoulder straps.

  • Have your child's posture and backpack checked by Dr. Allen.

  • If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child's teacher. It might be possible for your child to leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter handout materials or workbooks. If necessary, Dr. Allen can write a letter to the teacher or principal to help achieve a solution.

  • Talk to your child about the proper use of backpacks and help him or her understand why this and other ergonomic issues are important. A child who is educated early in life on the importance of ergonomics can apply this knowledge later in life -- at home or in the office - and will be happier and healthier as a result.

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