With school now in full-swing, we’re seeing more and more children come in with complaints in the back, neck and shoulders. It is important that we take a moment to address a topic many parents don’t think about as a possible culprit for their child’s pain: The Backpack. Whether your child is in elementary school or college, the weighted pack they’re carrying around all day may be creating problems.
Back pain affects nearly 80% of adults over the course of their lifetime. However, a disturbing new trend has found more children suffering from back pain than generations before. There are several contributing factors, one of which may be backpack usage.
In 2016 alone, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated 6,300 emergency room entries were due to backpack-related injuries. Carrying heavy bags can result in injuries ranging from acute and chronic back pain to muscle imbalances and posture problems.
We’ve formulated a brief checklist that you can run through with your child’s current backpack.
Backpack Safety Checklist
- The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) currently recommends that backpacks weigh less than 10% of a child’s body weight.
- Example: An 80 pound middle school student should not be carrying more than 8 pounds of material in their bag (roughly two textbooks).
- Educate your children on utilizing a locker for book storage and only carrying around the books and material they need for their next class.
- Is the backpack the correct size for your child?
- The bottom of the backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. The lower the bag sits, the heavier it feels and the more your child will lean forward to offset the weight.
- Bigger is not always better. Larger bags encourage kids to put more items in them, increasing their overall weight.
- Does the backpack have padded and adjustable shoulder straps for comfort?
- Avoid draw-string backpacks. The rope can dig into the shoulders and reduce blood circulation in the arms.
- Instead choose one with a comfortable padding option and adjustable straps.
- Is your child using both shoulder straps?
- Lugging around the bag on one shoulder will create a weight shift in the body, spine and muscles. Long term problems associated with this shift include poor posture, muscle imbalances (similar to women with heavy purse straps always worn across the same shoulder), and more serious health conditions.
Major RED FLAGS to look for in your child:
- Numbness in the arms or hands
- Neck or shoulder pain, especially during or after school
- Forward head posture
- Uneven shoulder height
If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of this more, you can email me directly at email@example.com or schedule a free one-on-one consultation at the office (734-427-6333).
Dr. Travis Dockery