Back to School Means Heavy Backpacks And Back Pain

To understand how heavy backpacks contribute to back pain, it's important to look at the composition of the back.
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School is just around the corner, and children will soon be abandoning the playground and returning to the classroom. With an emphasis on providing a sound education for this young generation, children are given a literal "heavier" workload year after year. This has translated into more books and more accessories, which greatly contributes to the normalcy and reliance on carrying backpacks. However, despite their usefulness, backpacks can cause serious back pain if overloaded or worn improperly.


To understand how heavy backpacks contribute to back pain, it's important to look at the composition of the back. The adolescent spine is composed of 33 bones called vertebrae with discs between them that act as natural shock absorbers. When a heavy backpack is incorrectly placed over a child's shoulders, the weight of the bag can force the child backwards. Usually, children counteract this force by arching or bending forward at the hips, causing the spine to compress unnaturally and contributing to neck, shoulder and back pain.


The best way to prevent lower back pain is to either avoid overstuffing a backpack. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, children should limit their backpack weight to between 10 and 15 percent of their body weight. Backpacks weighing more than this are too heavy to maintain a standing posture. This weight causes children to lean forward, affecting the natural curve in the lumbar and lower back regions resulting in variety of orthopaedic injuries.

Dr. Ebraheim says,
"Kids these days think backpacks are moving libraries, carrying heavier weights back and forth to school and between classes without taking breaks. The weight can cause a variety of back problems including scoliosis. This is a problem not only for the child's health but also because back pain can interfere with the learning environment. Kids need to feel healthy during the day so they can keep up with their schoolwork injury free."

Wearing a backing improperly can also cause back injury. Many times children will sling their backpacks over only one shoulder. This uneven distribution of weight causes the child to compensate by leaning to one side. The frequent imbalance causes muscle strain. The problem can be exacerbated if backpacks have tight or narrow straps, as they can interfere with circulation and nerves.

There are, however, some simple ways to prevent your child from developing back pain. First, it's important to monitor the weight of children's backpacks to ensure that they are not overloading them. Second, purchase a backpack with wide, padded straps to distribute the load over the shoulders evenly. Backpacks that have waist and additional shoulder straps may also prove beneficial in transferring the load to the hips and preventing slouching. Lastly, it's important to concentrate the bulk of the weight closest to your child's body in the middle of the back. This will help your child achieve better posture and balance, while preventing possible falls.

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