Back to school season is in full swing, and although everything is up in the air because of COVID-19, we thought it would be prudent to share some tips to help take some pressure off your child’s spine this year. Assuming the school year resumes as it normally would, here are some tips to help protect your child’s spine. We’ve also thrown in some tips in the event that schools end up going digital and learning from home becomes the norm.
Here are some ways to help protect your child’s spine and reduce the risk of minor or severe back injuries.
1. Backpack Basics – Backpacks are such a common source of pain in teens and children that we actually devoted an entire blog to the subject. Choose a supportive backpack, make sure it is fitted and worn correctly, and talk to your children about avoiding overloading it with weight. Your spine will be required to help manage stress caused by your backpack, so try to keep it light and wear it at the appropriate length.
2. Athletic Exercise – If your child is planning on playing a fall sport through their school or club team, now is the time to start getting their bodies ready for athletic competition. If you wait until the first day of tryouts to prepare for athletic activity, you have a much higher risk of suffering an injury or overloading your back. Slowly build up endurance and your overall fitness as fall sports approach. And if fall sports are cancelled, still encourage your child to get regular exercise!
3. Check Your Shoes – Protecting your feet also helps to protect your spine. If your child’s shoes aren’t offering much support, their body is going to have to handle more stress, and much of that stress is displaced on their spine. A comfortable and supportive shoe can help offset some stress, so don’t just assume last year’s shoes will be a perfect fit this year.
4. Food Choices – Food choices at school can also have an impact on your child’s spine health. Schools are required to serve some healthy meals, but that doesn’t mean your child has too choose them. If your teen can leave campus for lunch, talk to them about making healthy choices. Excess carbs and sugars can lead to weight gain, and again, that’s just more stress that will be on their spine. Healthy food choices are a great way to keep your spine injury-free during the school year.
5. Posture Awareness – This one is a little harder to police as a parent, but talk to your child about their posture at their desk, especially if they are complaining about back pain. Slouching or leaning forward on their desk will put abnormal stress on their lumbar or cervical spine. Done for hours a day at school, and this poor posture can lead to back problems in a hurry. Same goes for if your child is working from their laptop at home!
6. Take Care Of Small Issues – Finally, encourage your kids to speak up about back pain and to take care of small problems before they snowball. Missing one soccer game or missing a half a day of school to head to the doctor’s office is better than trying to power through pain and making the problem worse. If you notice your child is limping, has back or neck stiffness or openly complains about their back pain, start a dialogue and consider visiting a spine specialist.
For more information, or if you run into problems this school year, reach out to Dr. Chang and his team today.