Have you ever lifted up your child’s backpack and been surprised by the weight of it? Children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). A student’s backpack is heavy from all of the books, binders, and supplies they must carry to and from school. A heavy backpack can cause a lot of strain on a child’s back, shoulders, and neck and contribute to poor posture.
The extra weight can cause strain on a growing body. According to the National Safety Council, it’s common to see children carrying as much as a quarter of their body weight. The American Chiropractic Association recommends that backpacks weigh no more than 5% to 10% of a child’s weight.
There are some steps you can take to lessen the strain on your child’s body caused by carrying a heavy backpack to and from school.
- The appropriately sized backpack should not be wider than the child’s torso or hang more than 4 inches below the waist.
- See if an electronic version of a textbook is available.
- Shop for a light-weight backpack with padded and adjustable straps and a padded back
- Multiple compartments help to position weight more effectively within the backpack
- Consider a backpack on wheels
Check the fit of the backpack:
- Children should use both straps when carrying the backpack; using one strap shifts the weight to one side and causes muscle pain and posture problems
- Shoulder straps should be tightened so the backpack is fitted to the child’s back; a dangling backpack can cause spinal misalignment and pain
- Encourage children to use the chest, waist and compression straps and to adjust them to the load to help distribute the backpack’s weight more evenly
If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, consider visiting a doctor of chiropractic (DC). DCs are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In addition, DCs can also prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.