Attention parents. I have some homework that could influence your child’s health. How much does your child’s backpack weigh? If a child who weighs 100 pounds is wearing a 10 to 15 pound backpack, then that child is at an increased risk for low back pain or back pathology. Studies show that 92% of children carry backpacks that are 10% to 22% of their body weight. I was in school once, and I remember lugging around 3 to 4 heavy books, 2-3 binders, and a lunch box. Who knows, I may have been packing some Pogs or a Yo-Yo too. Let’s examine some backpack strategies to keep your kids healthy.
What Damage Can Heavy Backpacks Cause?
When a child’s backpack is over 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, the body’s normal center of gravity is shifted backwards or posteriorly. As the normal center of gravity is shifted posteriorly, abnormal loading of the spine will cause compression of the discs and associated spinal structures like articular facets. Along with spinal compression; children will compensate the weight by rounding their shoulders and jutting their head forward. Have you heard of the analogy, “As the twig is bent so grows the tree?” There is a lot of truth to that because minor spinal shifts or deviations of the spine will progress causing secondary conditions or symptoms if not corrected.
Chronic rounded shoulders can cause abnormal shoulder mechanics leading to shoulder injury. Permanent forward head posture or Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS) can cause spinal pathology and other symptoms such as headaches. Take a look at Justin Bieber’s lateral mugshot. It saddens me to see kids and teens with AHS because without a comprehensive plan to fix the shifts of the spine; spinal degeneration will accelerate at a more rapid pace. Anterior Head Syndrome is no different than your car being out of alignment. This will cause abnormal wear and tear on your tires and may cause your car to veer to one side.
Backpack Tips that Can Prevent Injury
- Backpacks shouldn’t be big enough to hold all of your child’s books. Purchase a backpack that is just large enough to hold a few books, a binder and a lunch box.
- Purchase a backpack that has large, padded shoulder straps. A backpack that is too heavy with narrow straps can compress nerves and arteries. With that said, use both shoulder straps. No Zack Morris backpack wearing.
- Limit backpack weights below 10% of your child’s body weight.
- Place the heaviest objects closest to the child’s back. This will limit changes in center of gravity which normally is just below your belly button.
- When picking up your backpack use the Lumbar Saving Lift.
- Check with the teacher or child about the books needed to bring home for homework.
- Adjust the straps so that the backpack is positioned 4 inches above the child’s waist line. Wear your backpack like NBA All-Star Kevin Durant.
You could try roller backpacks, but apparently those can be tripping hazards and may be hard to lug up stairs. A child with back pain or neck pain is extremely worrisome. Thus, it’s important to take the steps necessary to prevent future spinal problems.
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