Spinal Health: What Young People Can Do
Back pain can stop you from participating in your usual activities. To ensure you are able to take part in the things you enjoy, it is important to take care of your back. Following are some things you can do to help keep your back healthy.
- A backpack carried over both shoulders is the best choice for carrying a load (such as school books and sports gear). Carrying your pack this way ensures that the weight of your load is evenly distributed over both shoulders. It is also recommended that you have a pack with a waist strap - securing a waist strap will help to keep the load in place.
- It is important that you pack your backpack so that the heavier objects are placed nearer to your back, with the lighter objects towards the outside.
- Make sure your backpack fits properly. When you sit down with your backpack on, it should not extend higher than your shoulders.
- It is also important to lift your backpack correctly. When lifting your pack, face it, bend at the knees and lift the pack with both hands while straightening your legs. Place the straps over your shoulders one at a time.
- Only carry items to school that are absolutely necessary. Make sure that you check your timetable carefully to minimise the load you have to carry.
- Remember that you are carrying your pack! If you are in a crowded place, such as on a bus or train, be aware that as you move around, you could injure someone with your backpack.
- In most cases, the load you carry should be less than 10% of your body weight. For example, a person weighing 45 kilograms should not carry a load any greater than 4.5 kilograms. Remember that this is the maximum, and where possible you should carry as light a load as possible.
- If your school provides you with a locker, it is important that you make use of this to help lighten the load you have to carry during school time.
- If you have to carry a heavy load over a long distance, ensure that you have regular breaks to avoid getting fatigued. Fatigue can increase the risk of injury.
- If you have to sit for long periods of time, you can help your spine by ensuring that your bottom touches the back of the seat. It is also useful for you to take regular breaks when you've been sitting for long periods of time - briefly move around and/or stretch every hour or so. For more information, read the section in this package on 'Looking after your back when studying and using the computer'.
- Try to get as much physical activity as possible to keep your back in good condition. When you participate in vigorous physical activity such as swimming, fast walking, jogging, aerobics, weight training, playing tennis, etc, ensure that you warm up and stretch before and after your activity.
- If you are involved in contact sports, it is important that your neck and spinal muscles are in good condition to help prevent injury in this area. Regular fitness and skill training are essential in reducing the incidence of injury.