August 2015

  • Tips for a Pain-free Back-to-School

    The summer is quickly coming to an end, and soon
    children all across the United States will start complaining about something
    more painful than homework when they head back to school. According
    to one study of American students ages 11 to 15 years, 64% reported complaints
    of back pain related to heavy backpacks. In fact more than half of students
    carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guideline of 10% of the
    student’s total body weight and thousands of backpack-related injuries are treated
    at hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and clinics each year.
    Thankfully, a study published in 2002 on the effect of backpack education on
    student behavior and health showed
    nearly 8 out of 10 middle school students who changed how they loaded and wore
    their backpacks reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks, and
    shoulders. Hence, the American Occupational Therapy Association created the
    annual School Backpack Awareness Day and will celebrate it on September 16th.
    Here are some tips they provide for a pain-free back-to-school for your child. 

    Warning signs of
    a backpack that’s too heavy:

    · Difficulty
    picking up or taking off the backpack

    · Tingling
    or numbing of legs or arms

    · Pain
    when wearing the backpack

    · Red
    strap marks on the front of the shoulders 

    Ways to improve
    backpack wearing:

    · Pack
    heavier items in the back and center and lighter items in the front

    · Load
    with no more than 10% of child’s weight to prevent spinal damage or falls

    · Carry
    with both straps in use at all times and snug to the back

    · Put on
    by bending and lifting using the knees instead of at the waist

    · Adjust
    to keep it below the shoulders and up to the top of the hipbones 

    I hope you find these tips helpful. If your child has pain
    or shows weakness from carrying his or her school load after making adjustments,
    consider consulting with your pediatrician about the possible need of
    occupational or physical therapy services. Have a playful day! 

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist,
    award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information
    about Playapy services and products, visit
    or email
    [email protected].  

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