Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Backpacks- What You Should Know For Your Child's Health

If you are a parent, you probably enjoy the office supply store ad which uses a winter holiday song "Its the most wonderful time of the year."  If you're a teenager, well...maybe not so much.  Either way one of those supplies that you might need this year is a backpack.  This is actually a very important choice for the health of your child's spine.  Backpack usage has been correlated with the rise in adolescent back pain.  There is also evidence that adolescents with back pain are more likely to have back pain as an adult.

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. 

It shouldn't be much of a surprise that if your child is carrying more weight on their back than they are capable of handling, then they might experience back pain.  What most people forget is that this stress takes place daily over the course of the school year as your child's spine is growing.

Now take into consideration that the backpack is worn incorrectly putting more stress on one side of the body.  This will cause the child's structure to shift out of NORMAL alignment putting abnormal stress on the muscles, ligaments, discs, bones and nerves.  When done long enough, this will lead to secondary symptoms such as back pain.  Quite often the childs spine will develop a scoliosis (abnormal shift in the spine).  Research has shown that just 26lbs carried at least one time per week is enough to affect your child's structure.

What can you do to prevent this?

There really is no perfect solution. Kids seem to need more books these days; some schools lack lockers and/or  are not giving kids sufficient time to get to their lockers. We also can't overlook the fact that even with out these factors, some kids will just not be compliant to change the way they carry their backpack. But here are some suggestions that can help.

1.  Make sure your child is not carrying more than 10-15% of their body weight in the backpack.

2.  Have you child wear the backpack with both straps over the shoulders and make sure the pack does
not hang more than 4 inches below their waist.  This way they are less likely to lean forward due to the increased weight on the shoulders.

3.  Make sure the shoulder straps are adjustable and are padded for comfort.

4.  Do not buy a backpack that is too big.  Remember if there is extra space they will fill it with something, increasing the overall weight of the back pack.

5.  Having individualized compartments is good. This allows the pack to be balanced and prevents bulky areas from pushing into the spine.

6.  Roller packs are not a solution due to the fact that they get over packed and eventually the child needs to lift the pack onto the bus and up stairs at school.  A lot of schools have already banned the use of these packs because of the space issue in the schools and fear of someone tripping over them.

7.  If it seems impossible to limit the amount of books your child needs to tote around, talk to their teacher and see if there is an alternative, such as second set of books left at home or just bringing lighter books back and forth.

If you have questions regarding your child's backpack and how it might be affecting their health, give our office a call.  Consultations are no charge and if you bring your child we can make sure their back pack is set up properly. 

Have a great day!
Dr. Deane

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