Due to the abundance of homework and inadequate locker space, backpacks have become a popular means for
carrying books, school supplies and all those other "must-have" items kids need to get through their day.
Backpacks are essentially the school bus for these necessary learning tools. Unfortunately the weight associated
with the school supplies and the backpack itself can cause spinal problems. When carried correctly, in a way that
keeps the weight distributed evenly, backpacks are a great way to keep stuff handy and can even help strengthen
the muscles that help support the spine. When carried incorrectly or overloaded, a backpack can strain muscles
and joints, leading to back and neck pain.
To understand how a heavy or improperly worn backpack can affect a child's spine and lead to back and neck
pain, it is important to understand how the spine works. The spine consists of twenty four individual vertebrae
designed to support the majority of the weight imposed on it. Assisting in this role are the spinal discs, which are
situated between each vertebra. The spinal discs work together to absorb the stress and shock the body incurs
during movement while preventing the vertebra from grinding against one another. This complex arrangement
creates a strong supportive structure that allows for flexibility, support and a highly functional range of motion.
Heavy, unbalanced and improperly worn backpacks place undue stress on the spine and can exceed its ability to
adapt and support the weight. This ultimately compresses the vertebrae and discs. The child is forced to develop
poor posture in order to stay upright with improper backpack usage. Over time, these compensations can cause
damage to the spinal column. The failure to choose the right backpack can have negative effects on a child's
future spinal health. Children who wear backpacks that are too heavy or improperly fitted can develop serious
back trouble that will plague them for years. This growing problem is a source of poor posture and muscle strain,
along with shoulder, neck and low back pain in school age children. Below you will find helpful tips on proper
backpack usage and safety.
|Almost Every Adolescent, Teenager and Young Adult, Carry Some Sort Of Backpack.
It's The New School Locker.
|The most important tip is to make sure the pack is not too heavy. The backpack should never weigh more |
|than ten to fifteen percent of the child’s body weight.|
|Make sure the backpack has two wide, padded straps that go over the shoulders. This will prevent the |
|straps from digging into the shoulder region.|
|Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. It may look cool, but lugging the backpack around by one |
|strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side.|
|Make sure to adjust the shoulder straps to fit your child’s body. The pack should be a snug fit. Straps that |
|are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably.|
|Pick a pack that has multiple compartments that will allow the weight to be evenly distributed.|
|Many backpacks have a waist belt. Use it; this will also help distribute weight evenly.|
|Choose a backpack that has a built in lumbar support or a lumbar pillow.|
|Pay attention to how you fill the backpack. Put the heaviest items closest to your body to reduce strain on |
|your shoulders and neck.|
|Limit your backpack load. Have your child make frequent stops at their locker to replace and remove |
|items. If necessary have two sets of books, one for home use and one for school use.|
|Lift the backpack properly. With any heavy weight, bend with the knees and use the legs when lifting a |
|backpack onto the shoulders and back.|
|Make sure you get the right fit and size backpack. The backpack should never hang more than four inches |
|below the waistline. If the backpack hangs too low it will increase the weight on their shoulders, causing |
them to lean forward when walking.
|Consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a |
|heavy load on a daily basis.|
Parents, who are wishing to give their child a good start at school, would be wise to consider spending some
time evaluating their child's school backpack. If you child looks like a two legged pack mule while wearing a
backpack then it may be good idea to address the problem. Back pain later in life may stem from carrying heavy
backpacks that are too big, fitted poorly, worn improperly and/or packed incorrectly as a child. Getting the right
backpack now and upgrading it as a child grows during the course of the primary and high school years will help
prevent future adolescent and adult health problems associated with improper backpack usage.