Backpack Safety Tips

Posted by: Dr. Jessica L. Caruso

Think carrying a backpack is “no big deal”? Think again. The average child’s backpack weighs 12 pounds and gets lifted 10 times a day. That equals 120 pounds lifted each day. That works out to be about 21, 600 pounds lifted in a 180-day school year!!!

How exactly does carrying a backpack affect the spine? Common sense tells us that a heavy load distributed unevenly day after day causes stress to a growing spinal column. More than 50% of youths experience at least one low back pain episode by the end of their teen years. Repetitive activities such as hauling a heavy backpack over one shoulder each and every day can lead to serious postural misalignments and imbalances, creating subluxations of the spinal column. These subluxations may cause nerve interference, which can lead to a variety of symptoms and decrease a child’s immune response.

Carrying a heavy backpack in which weight is improperly distributed can result in poor posture; spinal column distortion; muscle strain; headaches; back, neck and arm pain; and nerve damage.

Proper lifting techniques are extremely important. The following is proper backpack lifting technique and should be demonstrated to your child:

Face the backpack before you lift it

Bend at the knees

Using both hands, check the weight of the pack

Lift with legs, NOT your back

Carefully slip on one shoulder strap at a time

NEVER sling the pack on one shoulder

Packing your child’s backpack properly can decrease strain on the spinal column:

Pack the heaviest objects close to the body

Place bumpy objects on the outside, away from the back

Having your child checked regularly by a chiropractor to remove subluxations and insure proper posture during the growing years is very important. Remember, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

Undo the Damage

Posted by: Jenny Everett King


My two-year-old likes to fold in half, place the top of her head on the floor, and say, “Look, Mom, I’m doing yoga!” If she has an audience (other than her proud yoga teacher mama), her performance usually leads to a discussion of “Wouldn’t you love to have that kind of flexibility!” At that point, I usually point out that most of us could have something approaching that level of flexibility, if only we would work to develop it.

Granted, most of us will never be able to put our heads on the floor when practicing a forward bend. The abilities of small children have as much to do with their proportions as they do with flexibility. But our lack of flexibility as adults has more to do with a lifetime of bad, tension-inducing habits than it does with aging.

Years of teaching have shown me that close relationship between daily activities and physical tension. Most runners have tight hamstrings and pain in the lower back, while many weight-lifters have tight chests and difficulty taking a deep, full breath. I usually see tight calves and toes (and the resulting lower back pain) among professional women who frequently wear high heels; I see wrist pain and tight hips among the computer set. Breastfeeding mothers often have tight upper backs and rounded shoulders. The list goes on. To make matters worse, most of compensate for our tight areas by over-using other muscles and joints, which in turn leads to more tension – a vicious cycle.

So, can we help our bodies out of this mess?

The first and obvious solution is to change our habits. No, I am not suggesting you change your exercise routine or quit your job, and I certainly would never tell a woman to stop breastfeeding her baby. But we can change the way we do certain things. Consider a change in footwear, for running or for work. At the computer and while nursing, be conscious of using good posture and changing position frequently.

The second part of maintaining and eventually increasing flexibility is simple: Use it or lose it. In yoga classes, we focus on undoing the damage from daily life as well as promoting general flexibility. I often have runners and avid hikers focus on their hamstrings, while a nursing mom may concentrate on opening her shoulders and chest in the same pose. Likewise, a high-heel-wearing executive might focus on her calves in Downward-Facing Dog, while someone on a computer all day might concentrate on opening his hands to take pressure off the wrists. That’s the beauty of yoga: Each pose works so many areas, that people with very different lifestyles can practice together and reap the benefits.