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Backpacks that don't hurt

Now that we are in “back to school” mode, it’s important to consider the backpacks we send the kids to school with every day. On the first day of school, those backpacks tend to be filled to the brim with school supplies, but what do they look like every other day of the year?

In the developed world at least 90% of children use backpacks. Backpacks are an inevitable part of a student’s life. However, the amount of weight in the backpack is controllable and should be carefully considered.

The recommended weight limit for the backpack is 10-15% of the child’s body weight. This means that a child of 75lbs should only be carrying 7.5-11lbs. It has been found in studies that some children are carrying 50% of their body weight on their backs.

It is critical that the backpack be worn on both shoulders. If the weight is not evenly distributed across both shoulders, then the backpack becomes more detrimental than helpful.

It has been found that injuries and backpack use have been correlated as an overuse syndrome. Since children have yet to completely develop, proper backpack use should be emphasized during this period so that injury does not become long-term.

A correlation has been found between backpack use and back pain in children between the ages of 9-18. It has been found that fatigue is a higher predictor of back pain rather than weight. However, the heavier the backpack is, the higher the chance you will fatigue and get back pain anyways.

A study has been done that has found that if the weight of the backpack exceeds 20% of the child’s body weight, blood pressure increases significantly. Also, this biomechanical shift in weight also alters lung mechanics and breathing becomes more difficult when the weight exceeds 20%.

The heavy backpack also causes postural changes, putting strain on the low back and the neck particularly, which can not only cause pain but can also alter posture.

Although backpacks are a necessary part of a student’s life, it is incredibly important for the child’s health and growth to keep the weight low. Also, ensuring the proper packing and wearing of the backpack is crucial.

If your child complains of back or neck pain, try throwing the backpack on the scale and seeing if it is overweight. If so, it’s time to unload the pack. It is recommended to be assessed by a chiropractor to see if there has been any stress or strain placed on the spine of your child or teenager. 

Pack it Light, Wear it Right!

 

Written by:

Dr. Marlee Lameris, BSc, DC, CACCP

Momentum Health Mahogany

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