Whether the school year is just finishing up or starting out, backpack weight is a problem for many young students. Please be aware that your child’s backpack COULD be hurting their spine in ways that might be evident for years.
Starting new classes with the heaps of books and notebooks, musical instruments, desk and locker cleanouts, final exams and such mean that backpacks will be packed to the top. That can mean back pain and spinal issues for your children.
Distribute the weight
Backpacks are supposed to distribute the weight of the contents over the area of the back, leading to less pain and spinal issues. With adults that’s usually not a problem. However, children are smaller, weigh less and most have no idea that overloading it will be a problem or how to distribute the contents to feel more comfortable.
Children suffer from spinal pain
Studies have shown that children do, in fact, suffer from spinal pain due to their backpacks. One study, led by David Siambanes, DO, of the Inland Empire Spine Center in Riverside, Calif., showed that of the 3,500 students participants aged 11 to 15 had significant issues.
Most said that they had some pain. 64% reported having back pain at some time. Two out of five said they felt pain while wearing their backpacks. In those who did, about 12% said it was “not bad,” while almost 90% said their back pain was “bad” or “very bad.”
21% said their pain lasted more than 6 months
What’s more, 21% said their pain lasted more than 6 months and 16% said if affected participation in gym class, or after-school sports because of the pain, or even missed school.
Just about 17% said they had seen a doctor for their back pain which was usually reported to be recurrent. This study didn’t track the long term consequences, but other research has shown that adults with back problems not attributable to an accident often had back pain as a child.
So there are some things you can do to protect your child’s back
Rollers: First, think about letting them use a rolling backpack. That takes it completely off their back.
Sizing: Next, choose a backpack where the length stops above the waist, has padded shoulder straps and a belt and pull the straps snug after they put it on.
Balance: Also, don’t let your children carry their backpack on one shoulder. Their posture changes immediately once they do.
Packing: Teach your children how to pack it for comfort, putting the heavier books closest to their backs. This keeps the weight closer to their center of balance, and have them bend at the knees when they lift the backpack.
Lighten The Load: If you can, keep an extra set of schoolbooks at home so they don’t need to carry them and have them only bring home what they need.
These tips can really make a difference in the health of your child. While their backpack might not feel to heavy to you, think about carrying a comparable weight around with you all day. A few simple measures now could help your child’s spine over their entire lifetime!