August 30, 2006
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Contact: Jerry Carey
Phone: (856) 566-6171
Don't Let Backpacks Turn into Back-to-school Back Pain, Physician Warns
STRATFORD—Millions of children will head back to school soon, with books, supplies and lunches tucked into backpacks that are slung over their shoulders. Although a convenient and popular way for children to carry textbooks, backpacks can cause pain or encourage the development of a chronic structural disease when used incorrectly.
"It's not usually the weight that children carry that causes problems; it's the way they tend to carry that weight," said Dr. David Mason, the acting chairman of the Department of Osteopathic Science at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "Backpacks that are carried over just one shoulder or too low on the back, can cause back pain because the muscles rather than the bones are supporting the weight. While the back pain may not last, this poor posture can contribute to scoliosis, which can lead to back problems throughout life."
Scoliosis, a condition commonly known as an abnormal curvature of the spine, frequently first begins to show up during the rapid growth spurts that occur in children from ages 10 through the adolescent years. Scoliosis affects about three percent of all children in this age group.
"Think of your back like a crane used to move heavy materials," Dr. Mason said. "Your spine is the steel structure that holds the weight and your muscles are the guide wires that provide stability and direction. Poor posture causes uneven muscle use which can pull the spine out of alignment, leading to scoliosis."
Dr. Mason suggests the following for proper backpack use:
· Choose backpacks that have wide, well-padded shoulder straps.
· Always carry the backpack using one strap over each shoulder.
· Adjust the backpack straps so that the bottom of the backpack is at least two inches above the waist.
· Use the backpack’s waist strap to help distribute the weight.
· If the child needs to lean forward to carry the backpack, check to make sure the shoulder straps are adjusted properly or remove some excess weight from the pack.
To arrange an interview with Dr. Mason on this topic, please contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service at (856) 566-6171 or at (973) 972-3000.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.