Back-to-school season: Focus on healthy backs |

Back-to-school season: Focus on healthy backs

Gregory Burkard Jr.
Parents should be mindful of protecting their children’s spinal health as they head back to school.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

About the author

Dr. Gregory Burkard Jr. is an interventional pain and sports medicine physiatrist. He currently see patients at Tahoe Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Carson City, Nevada and at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, California. To learn more about orthopedic services available through Barton Health, visit or call 530-543-5554.

With the new school year here, parents might think about measures to protect their children’s spinal health.

Heavy backpacks, pressure on the spine from looking down at electronics, and school sports can all have an impact on students’ backs.

When using a backpack for school, children should use both straps when wearing it to distribute the weight of the backpack and help the spine stay aligned. If they use a one-strap book bag, or carry athletic bags with sports gear, they should switch sides every day. Limit backpack weight to 10 to 15% of the child’s body weight.

For example, the backpack of a 100-pound child should weigh no more than 10 to 15 pounds.

Research shows that for every inch the head tilts forward, pressure on the spine doubles. That means children need to take breaks from electronic devices and avoid being hunched over for hours each day. Encourage children to look down with their eyes and try not to bend their necks when using electronics.

Regular stretching exercises such as moving the head from left to right several times can help alleviate pressure on the spine. Other exercises include tucking the chin to chest and then raising the head; and pulling the shoulder blades back and down.

Football players should use proper tackling techniques and avoid “spear tackling” or other improper methods that can result in severe injury.

Parents, take any mention of back pain seriously as back pain in children is unusual. If your child complains of back pain, make an appointment with a pediatrician for an evaluation.

Healthy Tahoe is a look at health-related topics that shape our community and is made possible through content provided by our sponsors.

Family Health

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.