Back to School Backpack Safety
It is well-known that back pain is a widespread problem among adults. However a disturbing new trend is emerging. Children are beginning to suffer from back pain at increasingly younger ages, a condition that can be directly traced to the improper use of backpacks.
This should not be a surprise when considering not only the disproportionate amount of weight carried in backpacks, but that they are often slung over one shoulder. While in the middle of summer vacation, parents know that the next school year is just around the corner. It is important to consider how a backpack can affect your child’s spine before the back-to-school shopping frenzy begins.
Backpack-related injury has been the focus of several studies. A 2003 report in the Archives of Disease and Childhood states that every year more than 13,000 backpack-related office and emergency room visits occur with school-age children. While the load of the backpack may not seem heavy to a parent at first, multiply that weight by how many times it is lifted and by how many school days there are. Then add some twisting motion to that equation! Both heavy and improperly worn backpacks can cause pain and discomfort, and more seriously, long-term damage to the spine.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Child?
A backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of a child’s body weight. Keep the heaviest items in the back of the backpack and closest to the child’s body. A backpack is too heavy if your child has difficulty putting it on by herself, or has any pain or discomfort while wearing it.
The backpack should not extend below the child’s waist or be wider than the child’s back. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders forcing the child to lean forward. This puts constant pressure on the discs and muscles of the spine.
The shoulder straps should be wide and cushioned. Narrow and stiff straps can put pressure on the delicate nerves, arteries, and veins, causing numbness and tingling in the arms. Both straps need to be worn over both shoulders to distribute the weight evenly.
Backpacks that have lumbar support will help children maintain correct posture. Straps around the waist or chest will help keep the load closer to the body and help maintain proper balance.
It is important that parents choose the right backpack for their children while at the beginning of the school year. Observe them throughout the year for their posture while wearing the backpack. Are they leaning forward, wearing only one strap, or overloading their backpack? Contact your chiropractor for a postural screening for your child.
Help him by preventing long-term postural imbalances that will cause pain and discomfort for the rest of his life.
Kelly Tolle is a Doctor of Chiropractic and mother of three small children. Owner of Family Chiropractic of Heathrow, she is dedicated to improving her patients’ quality of life through chiropractic, nutrition, and massage therapy at the Colonial TownPark location. Visit www.familychiropracticofheathrow.com.