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Back to School: Kids and Backpacks

As a chiropractor, I see a lot of adults suffering with neck and back pain.  Over the last few years I’ve also seen an increase in children who are experiencing similar discomfort.  Why? One major contributing factor is how increasingly heavy backpacks are getting.

Backpack Statistics

The U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission reports that on average there are 7000 backpack injuries occurring yearly in the U.S.  These injuries are a result of the backpacks being too heavy for the child and from improper use/carrying of the backpack.

Seventy percent of school age children are carrying a backpack that is too heavy for their body weight.  This is equal to a 39 lb. load being carried by a 176 lb. man, or a 29 lb. load being carried by a 132 lb. woman.

Of this 70%, 30% experience back, neck, or shoulder pain, and can experience numbness and tingling in the arms and hands.  These children also have a 42% increased risk for spinal pathology and posture deformity, and a higher risk for chronic back pain as adults.  Girls are at a higher risk for pain and postural deformity than boys.

Studies also show that the longer a child wears a heavy backpack, the risk for pain and postural deformity increases.  It will also take longer for the spine to correct a curvature or deformity caused by the backpack.

Backpack Injury Prevention

So, what can you do to prevent injury and pain from heavy backpacks?  It’s simple!  A backpack should never weigh more than 10% of a child’s body weight.  Buy a sturdy, ergonomically correct backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps.  Have your child wear the backpack on both shoulders, and make sure that the backpack doesn’t hang down more than 4 inches below the child’s waist.

These small changes will make a huge impact in your child’s health and wellbeing!

Dr. Stephanie Griffitts- Chiropractic Physician


Sources:

Schoolbags and Back Pain in Children Between 8 and 13 Years: A National Study. Br J Pain. 2017 (May); 11(2): 81-86.

Quality of Life, School Backpack Weight, and Non-specific Low Back Pain in Children and Adolecents. J Pediatrics (Rio J). 2015 (May); 91 (3): 263-269.

School Children’s Backpacks, Back Pain, and Back Pathologies. Arch Dis Child. 2012 (Aug); 97 (8): 730-732.

Effect of Backpack Load Carriage on Cervical Posture in Primary School Children. Work. 2012 (Jan 1); 41 (1): 99-108.

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