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CHRONICLES ON HEALTH

Back-Breaking Load

"Backpack injury prevention"
By: Ma. Jocelyn A. Niere-Quidlat, MD, FPPSBack-Breaking Load

To prevent injury when using a backpack, do the following:

1.  Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over the shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may increase curvature of the spine.

2.  Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. The straps should hold the pack two inches above the waist.

3.  Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 10-20 percent of the student’s body weight.

4.  Organize the backpack to use all the compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.

5.  Stop often at school lockers. If possible do not carry all of the books needed for the day.

6.  Bend using both knees when you bend down. Do not bend over the waist when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.

7.  Learn back-strengthening exercises to build up the muscles used to carry a backpack.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to encourage the child or teenager to let them know about any pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack. Any back pain should not be ignored. A pediatrician should be consulted. To lighten the bag load, try talking to school authorities about lightening the students’ load, or buy a second set of textbooks for the student to keep at home.

The school may help by allowing students to use school lockers more often. (Unfortunately, not all schools in the Philippines have these facilities.) Paperback books may be purchased instead of hardbound books. With the advent of technology, books on CD-ROM or e-books may be a good option, not only for saving kids from lugging around so much weight, but also for the environment.

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