Is Your Kid’s Backpack Causing Back Pain?


Back pain is pervasive among American adults, but a new and disturbing trend is emerging.

How your child's backpack should be positioned on their back to avoid back pain.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 in one year alone.

In our chiropractic office in Springfield, VA, we have noticed a marked increase in the number of young children who are complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain. The first question we ask these patients is, “Do you carry a backpack to school?” Almost always, the answer is “yes.”

This new back pain trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks – often slung over just one shoulder.

A recent study conducted in Italy 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. Preliminary results of studies being conducted in France show that the longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for a curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself.

The results of these types of studies 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.

The problem has become so widespread that the California State Assembly passed legislation that would force school districts to develop ways of reducing the weight of students’ backpacks. Similar legislation is being considered in New Jersey as well.

We believe that limiting the backpack’s weight to no more than 10 percent of the child’s body weight and urging the use of ergonomically correct backpacks are possible solutions.

What Can You Do?

The following tips can help prevent the needless pain that backpack misuse can cause the students in your household.
• Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.

The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.

A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back.

Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry-and the heavier the backpack will be.

Encourage your children 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 the child’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal problems 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.

Chiropractic Care Can Help…

If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, consult with your local chiropractor.  Chiropractors are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages.

Originally posted August 19, 2010, by Dr. Todd Sullivan, on http://www.springfieldchiropractorblog.com/