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Back Packs And Back Pain

by Kimberly Bergeron, PA-C, MPAS


A proper back pack is an essential part of a child’s school experience. While most parents will focus on price, and most children will focus on aesthetics, the primary concern should be how back packs can affect a child’s overall health.

Heavy back packs place strains on the neck and back, leading to pain and general discomfort. A heavy back pack can distort the natural curvature of the middle and lower back, which will cause muscle strains and irritation to spinal joints. Beyond the damage that a heavy back can cause, the child’s balance will be impacted by the load, leaving them more prone to fall when walking.

What exactly do we mean by a heavy back pack? For an average adult, carrying a 15-lb. bag would not feel taxing, but when children weigh only 60 pounds, this represents 25% of their body weight! Most literature on the subject encourages children to carry no more than 10% of their bodyweight. Of course, this requires the student to be aware of what is necessary to bring home each night. Are all the books needed? Are all the supplies needed?  It might be beneficial to contact the teacher to find out what your child does or does not need each night.

One should not only consider the weight that children carry but how they carry their bag.  If your child wears a back pack engaging only one strap, then the weight of the bag is not evenly distributed over the entire back.  It is important that both straps be used, which will help distribute the load more evenly. In addition, the straps should be snug so that the bag sits higher on the back.

The right bag is also important. A good back pack should be made with lighter materials, such as canvas. It should offer wide, padded shoulder straps and padding along the back, which helps cushion any rebound or impact from books or supplies. Also consider one with a waist strap that will help redistribute the weight. There are also roller back packs; however those can be difficult to maneuver and difficult to use with stairs.

If parents and students start with a good back pack, then take some basic preventative steps, avoiding unnecessary items and heavy weights, along with proper fitting, harmful issues can be avoided.

Sources

  1. http://www.healio.com/orthopedics/journals/ORTHO/%7B41EE9B99-F011-4FDF-94FD-5CCD9F65F7B3%7D/Effects of-Backpack-Carrying-in-Children
  2. http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/backpacks-and-back-pain-children
  3. http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/tips-prevent-back-pain-kids-backpacks
  4. http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=486183