While back and neck pain is common in millions of American adults, a disturbing new trend is emerging due to backpack use. Young children are exhibiting back pain at a much earlier age than previous generations, proving that backpack misuse is becoming a serious problem. Each school year millions of children walk to, from, and around school carrying backpacks filled with books and materials. Parents need to be aware that overly stressing the back with a heavy backpack could cause back pain in their child.
Backpack pain and misuse is not surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight children carry in their back. It is, however, not just the weight of the bag that causes problems. In many cases, children are not being consistent with how they wear the backpack, constantly shifting it from side-to-side and often have it over just one shoulder. Backpacks are intended to be worn using both shoulders, not just one. Habitually carrying backpacks over one shoulder causes muscles to strain in order to compensate for the uneven weight. Because of the uneven weight, the spine leans to the opposite side, stressing the middle back, ribs and lower back on that particular side.
Risk Factors and Solutions
Your child’s back is not fragile, it is able to compensate for any load applied to it for an extended period of time, but only if it’s evenly distributed. Backpack misuse can cause distortion in the natural curves in the middle and lower back, causing muscle strains and irritation to the spinal joints and the rib cage. A heavy backpack can also pull on the neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain, and/or neck and arm pain.
So with school starting back up relatively soon, what can you do to make sure you child is keeping their back healthy? It’s as simple as teaching them how to properly load and wear their backpack to avoid back pain:
- Never use one strap, always use both shoulder straps
- Pack the heaviest objects first so they are carried lower and closer to the body
- Evenly distribute the weight throughout the backpack
- Adjust the straps to fit the backpack snugly to the child’s body
- Do not lean forward while walking, if this is necessary, the backpack is too heavy
If your child is experience any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, chiropractic care might be the perfect solution. Chiropractors are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages, even children. Through manipulations, adjustments and exercise/stretching routines, chiropractors are able to ease pain and restore the spine to proper working order.