While children and teens are not likely to experience back pain – likely due to their resilience, flexibility, and short amount of time with imbalanced postural habits – they are establishing habits that can impact their later years. If they learn to incorporate balanced mechanics into their daily habits, they can be more likely to be active, healthy, and less likely to experience pain and injury throughout their lifetime.

Back-to-school season is a good time to check in with current practices and make some healthy modifications, for both their backs and overall health.

Body Mechanics

It’s challenging to picture a teenager without that “teenage slump”. And with today’s technology, it’s never been more common to see a child or teenager with poor posture, especially of the upper back. So much of children’s lives these days takes place in front of a monitor, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, that their impact is significant. However, paying attention to a couple of simple factors can help them to be more comfortable and less likely to experience pain – now or later.

  • Hold the device with shoulders relaxed, head balanced over the torso (not moved forward), and upper arms along the sides.
  • If they’re leaning forward to be able to read, adjust the settings to increase the font size.
  • Minimize use when walking, and try to find a place to view the tablet, laptop, or smartphone in a supportive chair.
  • If using for prolonged periods of time, periodically pause and take a mini-break. Look away, check in with posture, relax the breath, and if possible get up and walk around a bit.

Backpacks

With lockers not used as much as in the past, kids are using backpacks more than ever. Selecting and using backpacks can be more comfortable and help to build positive lifelong habits by implementing the following.

  • When selecting a backpack, choose the smallest size that meets the student’s needs.
  • Choose a backpack made of a lightweight material, padded back, and individual compartments.
  • When carrying a backpack, use both shoulder straps instead of carrying off of one shoulder, put heavier items in first, keep the backpack close to the body, and distribute the load evenly.
  • Work with the school to see if both a home and school set of textbooks can be provided or if homework can be photocopied.
  • Only carry the books required, and regularly clean out the backpack.
  • Limit the weight of the full backpack to 10 to 20% of the child’s weight.

Nutrition

Give your student the best possible start to the day by providing a nutritious breakfast, ideally consisting of a protein (eggs, yogurt, beans, a protein shake), complex carbohydrate (oatmeal, wheat toast, hash brown potatoes), and plenty of fruits and/or vegetables. Smoothies, parfaits, eggs and toast, and breakfast burritos are all excellent choices to start off a good day. Healthy meals provide the nutrition, energy, and even balanced brain chemistry to help the both student feel good and excel in the classroom.

Copyright © 2017 Mary A. Williams, Corporate Health Alliance, LLC/BACKCoach™. All rights reserved. This article was originally published in the July, 2017, issue of Healthy Cells Magazine.

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