Protect Your Child’s Neck — And Shoulders, And Back

School’s been back in session for a few months. It’s time to check your child’s book load.


Now that your child knows her class schedule and routine, it’s time to do a quick backpack check. Your child is constantly carrying around pounds of heavy textbooks in her backpack, often causing back pain and stiffness.

Have your kids follow these handy backpack safety guidelines to protect their backs:

  • Use both straps. While one-shoulder messenger bags or carrying a traditional backpack slung over one shoulder is “cool,” it puts unnecessary strain on one side of your child’s back.
  • Buckle the belt. Your child may complain that wearing the hip belt on his backpack looks silly, but it provides extra support and takes pressure off of neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Keep the straps tight. Much like slinging a bag over one shoulder, wearing a backpack loose and hanging low is popular. However, this can cause lower back pain.
  • Use all the backpack’s compartments. This allows your child to pack his backpack with the heaviest books centered on his back.

If your child’s book load is just too heavy, consider talking to the teacher about easing the weight. Another solution—if possible with your child’s schedule—may be frequent stops at her locker throughout the day so she is carrying only the books she absolutely needs at any given time.

Promoting Good Posture

More children and adolescents today have poor posture due to many factors, including heavy backpacks, excessive time on the computer and “text neck,” a condition caused by too much bending over smartphones. Poor posture can affect many aspects of a person’s health, both in adolescence and into adulthood.

To avoid long-term complications, fix posture problems early on. Here are some ways to encourage your child to have good posture:

  • Try exercises — With your child sitting upright on the couch or a chair, hands on his legs, have him pull his shoulders back and squeeze his shoulder blades together for five seconds. Relax, and repeat four more times.

  • Impose breaks — Whether your child is doing loads of homework or just playing computer or video games, have him get up and walk around every 20 minutes or so.

  • Use imagery — To get your child to stand or sit properly, tell her to imagine that a balloon is attached to the top of her head, lifting it straight into the air.

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