While researching this topic, We were not surprised to learn that the Chiropractic and Medical professions completely agree on this issue. School backpacks are detrimental to our children’s’ health especially when too heavy, poorly fitted and/or worn incorrectly.
Estimates are that each year over 13,000 office or emergency room visits are related to school aged children wearing backpacks. Numerous studies in the last few years have shown that school backpack problems may cause long term damage to growing spines.
What can parents do? Well sadly, the most obvious solution is forbidden in most schools. Because of associated tripping problems, most schools do not allow rolling backpacks.
But parents can take some steps to reduce the chances of pain or injury. First weigh your child and the fully loaded backpack in question. Ideally the backpack should weigh no more than 10% to 12% of the child’s weight. The more frequently this is done, the better.
Help your child learn to load the backpack as evenly balanced as possible. Make sure the backpack fits your child. Hand me down backpacks from an older sibling can be problematic. Backpacks with many compartments are usually better than those with only 1 or 2 sections.
Additionally, look for a lightweight pack, with 2 wide padded shoulder straps, a padded back and if possible a waist belt. These features all contribute to a better fit and reduce the chances of pain or injury when adjusted and worn properly.
It is also extremely important to instruct your child not to wear the backpack using only one strap. They might think it looks cool (or whatever word they are using) but it virtually guarantees spinal problems and muscle pain.
The straps should be adjusted to be tight and even on both sides while keeping the top of the backpack even with the tops of the shoulders. If it is worn lower, the child will hunch forward to compensate.
Frequently (weekly) observe your children while they are wearing their backpacks. Look for good posture with no strain or pain. If you are in doubt, contact our office. Don’t wait until your child is suffering from back and/or neck pain. Prevention is critical. And if prevention didn’t happen, early, prompt treatment is the next best solution.
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