Carrying a backpack is a repetitive maneuver that students do on a daily basis for several years. It can wear and tear at the spine and body, so it is smart to educate yourself on the proper way to select and wear the backpack.
IMPORTANT: Follow these simple guidelines to help your child pick out a backpack that they like while avoiding serious back problems:
Choosing a Backpack
- Select a backpack that’s appropriate to the child’s size and age, school backpacks come in different sizes for different ages.
- Many parents choose a large backpack. This is not necessarily a wise decision as the child will tend to put more in it and it will become heavier.
- The backpack should not be wider than the child’s torso.
- Choose one that has well-padded shoulder straps that are adjustable. The shoulders and neck are rich in nerves and blood vessels that when constricted can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands.
- Another feature to look for is a padded back which helps increase comfort.
- Multiple compartments are a good – they help to position contents effectively.
Loading a Backpack
- Load heaviest items closest to the spine and lightest items furthest away from the spine.
- Pack neatly and use any compartments available to avoid items shifting and moving the weight.
- Do not carry more than 10-15% of the body weight. For example, if a child weighs 100 pounds the backpack should never weigh more than 10-15 pounds.
Wearing a Backpack
- Wear both straps to evenly distribute weight at all times. Wearing the straps to one side can cause the spine to curve with the added weight and leaning posture.
- Adjust the straps so that the backpack fits securely to the student’s back. If it is too loose, the pack can pull backwards and strain the muscles between the shoulders.
- The bottom of the backpack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should not rest more than four inches above the waistline. If it hangs too low, it increases the weight on the shoulders which causes the child to lean forward while walking.
If a child does report symptoms of headaches, back pain, shoulder pain, or neck pain, these should not be ignored! The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that backpack related injuries sent more than 7,000 people to the emergency room in 2001 alone. Many times adults with neck and back pain started with problems back when they were younger students carrying a heavy backpack. One of the best things you can do for your child is to take them to a chiropractor to have their spines checked on a routine basis. It is a good idea to make sure that the spine is not developing abnormally while the spine is still developing.
As chiropractors we are interested in helping people express the most life through optimal health and wellness. Backpacks when abused or overloaded can be a major form of stress, especially on a young and developing spine. This stress creates subluxations or spinal misalignments that can have serious effects on the child’s health. The spine is of importance because it houses the spinal cord and nervous system, and a properly functioning nervous system allows for a better functioning body and mind. A healthy spine is essential; for kids, this could mean improvement in academic and athletic performance.
Dr. Sara Hillesheim is a chiropractor at Relief Plus Chiropractic in Minnetonka MN. We are located at the intersection of County Road 101 and Minnetonka Boulevard near Wayzata MN and Deephaven MN. At Relief Plus Chiropractic, it is our mission to help as many families as possible achieve a higher quality of life through better health. Please contact our office today for your FREE consultation! Call 952-681-2863 or visit www.reliefplusmn.com for more information!