backpack

Gearing up for Back to School

Back pain is pervasive among American adults, however it is not uncommon among children and teens either. In a new and disturbing trend, young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has previously reported that backpack-related injuries sent more than 7,000 people to the emergency room in one year’s time.

What Can You Do To Help Prevent This?
ACA offers the following tips to help prevent the needless pain that backpack misuse could 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.
  • 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.
  • Although the use of rollerpacks – or backpacks on wheels – has become popular in recent years, ACA is now recommending that they be used cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack. Some school districts have begun banning the use of rollerpacks because they clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous trips and falls.

Chiropractic Backpack Safety Checklist

backpack-clipart-1One of the fundamental pieces of any back to school ensemble is, of course, the backpack. Although they’re practical, backpacks are a leading cause of back and shoulder pain for millions of children and adolescents. We are offering a checklist to help parents select the best possible backpack for their children.

  • Is the backpack the correct size for your child? The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso, and the pack shouldn’t hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body.
  • Does the backpack have two wide, padded shoulder straps? Non-padded straps are not only uncomfortable, but also they can place unnecessary pressure on the neck and shoulder muscles. Lugging a heavy backpack by one strap can cause disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, low back pain, and poor posture. 
  • Does the backpack have a padded back? A padded back not only provides increased comfort, but also protects your child from being poked by sharp edges or school supplies.
  • Does the pack have several compartments? A backpack with individualized compartments helps position 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, and try to place the heaviest items closet to the body.

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends that parent’s or guardians help children pack their backpacks properly, and they should make sure children never carry more than 10% of the their body weight. For example, a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t carry a backpack heavier than 10 pounds. In addition, parents should ask their children to report any pain or other problems resulting from carrying a backpack. If the pain is severe or persistent, seek care from a doctor of chiropractic or other health care professional!