School Backpack Use Increases Risk of Child Back Pain

Child Back Pain May be Due to School Backpack Use


As students savor the last precious days of summer vacation, parents are out making the final run for school supplies. So parents, take note, when back to school shopping this year there is one essential item that requires very special attention: your child’s backpack.

Backpack weight is an established problem, and studies show that heavy backpacks can lead to both back pain and poor posture, notes the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).

“It’s important for parents and guardians to not underestimate the gravity of the situation; overweight backpacks can result in numerous short-term and chronic health concerns,” said Dr. David Thorpe of the ACA’s Council on Occupational Health. “Help your child pack their backpack each day and make sure they never carry more than 10 percent of his or her body weight. For example, a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a backpack heavier than 10 pounds.”

Although the long-term effect of poor backpack use are not known, health care professionals say excessive weight and certain bag styles can cause nerve pressure around the neck that could lead to muscle spasms, neck or shoulder pain.

In fact, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there has been nearly a 300 percent increase in backpack-related injuries among school children over the last ten years. However, parents can help prevent problems before they start.

The ACA offers the following backpack safety checklist for parents:

* 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 should not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increased the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking. Also, a bigger back 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.

*Does the backpack have two wide, padded shoulder straps? Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and can dig into your child’s shoulders. Also, two shoulder straps are better than one. Lugging a heavy backpack by one strap can cause disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.

*Are the shoulder straps adjustable? 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.

*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 from inside the pack.

*Is there a waist belt? Many backpacks have a waist belt that can be snugly buckled around the child’s waist. These belts can distribute the weight of a heavy load from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso.

*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 heaviest items closest to the body.

Parents should ask their kids to report any other problems resulting from carrying a backpack. If the pain is severe or persistent, seek care from a health care professional, such as a doctor of chiropractic.

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