Technology, not heavy books, taking a toll on students' backs

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Doctors use to worry about students' backs because of all the text books they carried around. Now many kids are using laptops and tablets instead and the technology is leading to different types of back problems.

Photo: Devon Christopher Adams / CC BY 2.0

High School Principal Shawn Mayes said, "Obviously you know you think about some of the weight. I remember going to school and carrying around 7 or 8 textbooks and uh we still have plenty of textbooks here but it definitely is uh it's something different that it's taken some getting used to."

While this could decrease the risk of back-pack related back injuries, computer use can take a different toll on kids. Dr. Tom Dunlap, Chiropractor, said, "I would say it's extremely common. In our practice probably 50% of people come in with issues that are related to poor posture and the number one thing that leads to poor posture is the way that we sit at computers or carry backpacks nowadays."

People often arch their neck down and shoulders forward for extended periods of time while using a laptop. Dunlap says, "We always say that your necks position is your best position. And the problem with being bent over a computer all day is it creates almost like a painless injury to your spine that doesn't show up until maybe years in advance. In other words it will distort your problem and cause pain, stiffness, soreness, directly related to the lack of good posture."

Dunlap says to sit up straight, keep the screen close to eye level and take periodic breaks to stretch and move. "Not something I've really paid attention to, it'll be interesting to look into that as we walk into classrooms and stuff."

If students do carry books, the American Chiropractic Association says backpacks should weigh no more than 10% of your body weight.

No matter what you're carrying in your backpack, you should wear both straps over your shoulders to reduce the strain on your back. Make sure it's high on your back. The top should be almost even with your shoulders.