It’s that time of year again. Time to send the kids back to school to conquer another year of learning. Every year it seems like our children are bringing home more books and homework. But could carrying home those extra supplies be causing any health problems?
Over the past few years more attention has been given to the effects a heavy backpack can have on your child’s spinal health. More studies are beginning to show that many children are reporting problems caused by or worsened by their backpacks. In one study, 79.1% of children said their backpacks felt heavy, 65.7% felt fatigued by the weight of their backpack, and 46.1% reported pain caused by their backpack. So far, no studies have identified any permanent damage, such as scoliosis, that is caused by heavy backpacks. However, it does appear that the added pressure and weight of a backpack can cause back pain in children, and might contribute to chronic back pain, neck pain, or shoulder problems.
How heavy can your child’s backpack be and still be safe? It depends on the size and weight of your child. It is recommended that a child carry no more than 10% of their body weight in their backpack on a regular basis. So if your 5th grader weighs 90 lbs, they should not be carrying more than 9 lbs in their backpack everyday. The easiest way to find out how much your child’s backpack weighs is to weigh the child, weigh the child with the backpack on, and subtract to find the difference.
The way the backpack is made is also important to protecting your child’s spinal health. First, pick a lightweight backpack, canvas or synthetic fiber, instead of a heavy material like denim or leather. The straps should be adjustable and at least 2 inches wide. Try to avoid picking bags with only one strap such as messenger bags. Also, try to find a backpack with a waist strap and a padded back. Individualized pockets are also important to make sure the weight of the backpack is evenly distributed. Finally, a backpack with wheels gives the option of pulling the backpack on days when the weight is extremely heavy.
Properly wearing and loading the backpack is also important to protecting your child’s spinal health. The straps should be shortened until the bottom of the backpack is just above the child’s waist, and not sitting on their buttocks. With the straps shortened to this level, the backpack should lie flat on the child’s back. Your child should wear the backpack over both shoulders. Also, teach your child to pack items in the backpack so the heaviest items are closest to your child’s back, and any pointy items are away from your child’s back.
Finally, ask your child if they think their backpack is too heavy or if they are having any back, neck, or shoulder pain. It is important to know if your child is experiencing any spinal pain because it can be a sign of more serious conditions like scoliosis, spondylolysis, disc disorders, or sports injuries. If you child does have back pain, have them evaluated by a spinal expert, a chiropractor, to determine the cause of their problem.
To determine if chiropractic care could help relieve your child’s back pain, or to speak with a chiropractor in the Edwardsville, IL area, call Dr. Emily Brueggeman at 618-692-0000. Ask for a free Invitation to Health which includes a consultation and screening to determine if your child’s case is a chiropractic case.