It’s that time of year again: Parents are buying their children supplies for the upcoming school year, but what they may not realize is that one item on their list is sending thousands of children to doctors’ offices every year—backpacks.
In fact, statistics from the Consumer Products Safety Commission show that in 2017 an estimated 7,800 kids between 5-18 years old were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to backpacks.
According to Scott Bautch, DC, president of the American Chiropractic Association’s Council on Occupational Health, many students experience back, neck and shoulder pain from oversized and overstuffed backpacks. “With the combination of carrying backpacks much too heavy for a child’s physical abilities and an increasing sedentary lifestyle, children are reporting back pain at similar rates as adults,” Dr. Bautch explains.
To help ensure students in your household avoid backpack-related pain, consider the following tips from the American Chiropractic Association (ACA):
Dr. Bautch offers the following tips to help prevent the needless pain that backpack misuse could cause for the students in your household:
Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 10 percent of their body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward to support the weight on the back, rather than the shoulders.
The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.
A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents more effectively.
Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back.
Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry and the heavier the backpack will be.
Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low back pain.
Wide, padded straps are very important. Nonpadded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child’s shoulders.
The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can fit to your child’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle, causing spinal misalignment and pain.
If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child’s teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter handout materials or workbooks. You could also encourage your local school district to purchase online textbooks.
If you or your child experience any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call your doctor of chiropractic. Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages – and will use a gentler type of treatment for children.