Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Take a Load off, Kid

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Take a Load off, Kid

Article excerpt

In these days of iPads and laptops, online learning and e-books, it seems like a backpack would be unnecessary, something from the bygone era of school supplies.

Instead, North Jersey kids are still loaded down with traditional books, as well as notebooks, binders, folders and calculators. Younger children may have a pencil box or box of crayons. It all adds up and tips the scale in an unhealthy direction.

"Unfortunately, most kids are wearing backpacks that are too heavy for them," said Aliza Apfelbaum, who is an occupational therapist in the Center for Physical Rehabilitation at Holy Name Medical Center.

If a child starts complaining about neck, back or shoulder pain, parents should look at the backpack first.

"They should be looking at how many books are in it, looking at how the child is putting the books inside it, make sure it's fitted properly, wearing both straps and make sure straps fit snugly so the backpack isn't hanging too low," said Apfelbaum.

One of the biggest problems with older kids is their throwing the backpack over one shoulder instead of two because they think it looks better. It is definitely not better for them.

"You're pulling one shoulder down and hiking the other shoulder up," said Apfelbaum. "It changes your body mechanics, changes how you're walking."

A lot of parents have turned to the wheeling backpacks to protect their children, but unfortunately, they are not free of issues themselves.

"Rolling backpacks are definitely a good alternative to carrying a backpack on your back that is very heavy," said Apfelbaum. "However, rolling backpacks can be hard to maneuver and can be a tripping hazard for the child using them or any child around them."

There is also the point when it has to be picked up -- up and down stairs, on and off the bus, in snow or mud or high grass. When a child must put it on her back, it is not only heavy, it's uncomfortable.

"Because it's so rigid, it's not going to be as conforming to your spine as a standard backpack would be," said Apfelbaum. …

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