Do Your Children Carry a Backpack to School?
Back pain is pervasive among American adults, but a new and disturbing trend is emerging. Young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that backpack-related injuries sent more than 7,000 people to the emergency room alone.
The first question I ask patients is, “Do your children carry a backpack to school?” Almost always, the answer is, “YES.”
A recent study found that the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman. Of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result.
The longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for a curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself. The results are especially important as more and more school districts – many of them in urban areas – remove lockers from the premises, forcing students to carry their books with them all day long.
What Can You Do?
Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively. Bigger is not necessarily better. Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain. Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child’s shoulders.The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child’s teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.
We Can Help… If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call for an appointment today.