Back to School: Backpacks and Back Pain

Yes, back pain can happen in kids too. Your back to school shopping this year probably includes choosing backpacks for your children. But beware! Those cute little princesses or superheroes backpacks may harm our kids’ backs.

Millions of kids today are walking around with a heavy load on their backs each year. Some kids tend to carry their bag on one shoulder. Many are suffering from muscle strain and joint pains. Carrying heavy backpacks may also cause lower back pain, neck and arm pain. It can also contribute to headaches.

There are cases where kids that develop a habit of carrying the heavy bag on one shoulder, over time the spine leans and may eventually affect the development of their spine.

A study was done in California with 3,500 students aged between 11 and 15 where researches found that 64% of the kids reported back pain at some time, 2 of every 5 children felt pain wearing a backpack. Imagine the report continued with 21% of the students having back pain that lasted more than six months and reoccur. They have to miss school or after-school sports because of back pain.

According to Dr. Scott Bautch, a member of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) there is an increase in young children complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain. His first question to the kids was “Do you carry a backpack to school?”

What do you think the answer was?

Here is a backpack checklist taken from the ACA.

1. Backpack size. The backpack should never be longer or wider than the child’s torso and should not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. If it is too long, your child will lean forward while walking.

2. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and will place pressure on the neck and shoulder muscles.

3. Your child should be encouraged to use both straps. If they habitually use only one shoulder carrying the weight will lead to neck and muscle spasms, low-back pain and poor posture.

4. Adjustable shoulder straps can be fitted and centered to your child’s body.

5. Padded back backpacks provide comfort, protects children’s back from being poked by sharp school supplies.

6. A backpack with several compartments helps position the contents effectively where heavier items are placed closer to the body.

Did you take a look at your child’s backpack lately? Heavy backpacks and back pain affect kids of all age groups. The backpack rule is, it should not be 10% more than their body weight. For example a 57 pound kid will carry no more than 5.7 pounds in his backpack.

As our schools are changing to a more digital world, text books will probably become obsolete in 5 years or less and a tablet device will carry all your text books and materials.

I thought rolling backpacks were the best alternative for kids, but some of my colleagues like Dr. Lisa Homic says those too can cause muscle strain and joint misalignment. My recommendations are to do the best you can with the recommendations we gave you above but remember you and your children’s spines should be checked by a Chiropractor every few months and more often if you are experiencing discomfort.

I promise it will be one of the best things you do for your spine and your families’ health.

What do you think about backpacks and back pain? Please leave your comment below.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any illness or disease. It’s strictly for informational, educational, or entertainment purposes ONLY. The products I talk about are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any illness or disease. Any information I give you about them is for informational or entertainment purposes only. They have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA. Please seek the qualified health professional of your choice when making health decisions for yourself, your family and your pets.

Photo credit: llbean.com

  • Debbie

    I remember my nieces bags weighing a good 15-20 pounds because of some locker problem. Even older kids this is an issue–unhealthy

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