Back pain is extremely common among American adults and is becoming far more common among children and teens. Children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of heavy backpacks is a major contributing factor.
This new back pain trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks – often slung over just one shoulder. One study conducted in Italy found that the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman. Many schools have removed lockers from the premises, forcing students to carry their books with them all day long. This new back pain trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks.
Of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60% had experienced back pain as a result. The longer a child wears a heavy backpack, the more the spine is compressed, often leading to distortions and misalignments (subluxation) of the spine. The old adage “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree” could not be truer. Months and even years of wearing a heavy backpack can result in months or years of care to correct curvature or deformity of the spine.
Tips for buying and wearing the right backpack
Choose the right backpack: Go for lightweight vinyl or canvas. Pick a pack that has two wide, adjustable, padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, padded back and plenty of pockets.
Packing it properly: Make sure your child’s pack contains only what is needed for that day, and that the weight is distributed evenly. The total weight of the filled pack should be no more than 10 to 15 percent of the wearer’s body weight.
Putting it on: Put the pack on a flat surface, at waist height. Slip-on the pack, one shoulder at a time, and then adjust the straps to fit comfortably.
Wearing it right: Both shoulder straps should be used, and adjusted so that the pack fits snugly to the body, without dangling to the side. You should be able to slide your hand between the backpack and your child’s back.
Your child’s backpack shouldn’t be a drag. Maintaining good back health in youth may help prevent back problems in later life. So, pack it light and wear it right!
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