Starting this week, children all over Rockland County will be sharpening their pencils and heading back to school. This also means kids will be packing their backpacks and slinging them onto their backs. However, this “Rite of Autumn” has also heralded in a new and disturbing trend - back pain among youngsters.
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 reports that backpack-related injuries sent more than 7,000 people to the emergency room in 2001 alone.
This new back pain trend among youngsters isn't surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight kids carry in their backpacks - often slung over just one shoulder. According to a recent study conducted in Italy - the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man. Of those children carrying heavy backpacks to
school, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result.
So as a parent, here are some tips to help prevent the needless pain that backpack misuse could cause our students:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning
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.
4. Bigger 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.
5. 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.
6. Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are
uncomfortable, and can dig into your child's shoulders.
7. 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.
8. 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.
Finally, if your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call your doctor of chiropractic. Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In addition, doctors of chiropractic can also prescribe
exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with
instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.
For more information on this topic, feel free to contact our office or email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.