Choosing The Right Backpack

Back pain in school-agers is on the rise. A study published in the Journal of the North American Spine Society found 6% of 10 year olds now complain of back pain, increasing to 10% to 15% in 12 year olds.

One of the more critical periods in a person’s life when the spine is subject to damage is during childhood, and it’s now being shown that a leading cause of disruption in spinal development and posture during these years is caused by the use of backpacks.

The good news is that Martin Family Chiropractic can offer some simple pointers and a few “backpack facts” that may help:

  1. Select the Best Backpack – When buying a backpack, put the same amount of thought into it as you do selecting a child’s shoes. First of all, avoid packs or bags with a single strap. This lopsided pressure will likely have a negative impact on the spine over time. Buy one with two heavily padded shoulder straps. To assure a proper fit, ensure the straps are snug (not too tight) and they do not allow the pack to hang too low. It’s even better if a waist strap is included.
  2. Keep it on the Lighter Side – When the backpack is loaded and ready to go, your child should not have the tendency to lean forward to compensate for the weight. If so, it’s too heavy. Over time this will stress the spine and can cause problems. A good rule of thumb is a maximum weight of 10% of total body weight. That means that a 50lb child should carry about 5 pounds. The younger your child, the more important the weight becomes. Once into the teenage years, you can max out at 20% of total body weight. One tip that will help make the pack easier to carry is to ensure the heavier items are closer to the body so the legs carry more of the load rather than the spine.
  3. Carry it Correctly – Make sure your kids wear one strap over each shoulder. This keeps the pack close to the body and distributes its weight evenly across the back and shoulders. If you pack has a waist strap, use it to help keep the weight closer to the core of the body.
  4. Get their Spine Checked – The results of carrying heavy backpacks isn’t something most parents think about until the damage is done. If you are unsure about the condition of your child’s spine, check in with a chiropractic center near you. It’s much easier to correct back problems in a growing child than it is in a full grown adult.

The reality is that damage from overloaded and improperly carried book bags and packs can be a serious issue. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Johns Hopkins Children Center, and an Auburn University study estimated that more than 3,300 children aged 5 to 14 were treated in emergency rooms last year for pain and injuries and posture problems stemming from overloaded backpacks. It was found that the average pack weighed 17% of the child’s body weight. This is the equivalent of a 150 lb. adult carrying a 26 lb. pack. They also found that 50.8% in the studies reported back pain while 24.5% experienced numbness, and 14.7% reported shoulder pain.

Then consider this… more than five million adult Americans are sidelined from work every year due to chronic back pain. You have to wonder how many of these problems started in their youth?

Dr. Jarrad Martin
Martin Family Chiropractic