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Woman and young boy pack a backpack for school.

Focus on Healthy Backs for Back-to-School

With the new school year here, parents might think about measures to protect their children's spinal health. Heavy backpacks, pressure on the spine from looking down at electronics, and school sports can all have an impact on students’ backs. 

When using a backpack for school, children should use both straps when wearing it to distribute the weight of the backpack and help the spine stay aligned. If they use a one-strap book bag, or carry athletic bags with sports gear, they should switch sides every day. Limit backpack weight to 10 to 15 percent of the child's body weight, for example, the backpack of a 100-pound child should weigh no more than 10 to 15 pounds.

Research shows that for every inch the head tilts forward, pressure on the spine doubles. That means children need to take breaks from electronic devices and avoid being hunched over for hours each day. Encourage children to look down with their eyes and try not to bend their necks when using electronics.

Regular stretching exercises such as moving the head from left to right several times can help alleviate pressure on the spine. Other exercises include tucking the chin to chest and then raising the head; and pulling the shoulder blades back and down.

Football players should use proper tackling techniques and avoid "spear tackling" or other improper methods that can result in severe injury. 

Parents, take any mention of back pain seriously as back pain in children is unusual. If your child complains of back pain, make an appointment with a pediatrician for an evaluation. 

Dr. Gregory Burkard Jr. is an interventional pain and sports medicine physiatrist. He currently see patients at Tahoe Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Carson City, Nevada and at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, California. To learn more about orthopedic services available through Barton Health, visit BartonOrthopedicsAndWellness.com or call 530.543.5554.