The school year is almost upon us, and with back-to-school comes back-to-backpacks, which, here at Chiropractic FIRST, can mean a whole lot of havoc for your back! In this blog post, we share some tips on how to safely wear a backpack so as not to cause any musculoskeletal distress. If you live in the Lincoln area and are looking for a chiropractor with a focus on holistic wellness, contact us today and get your first visit for only $97.

The Risks of Heavy Backpacks

In a disturbing trend, children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of heavy, overweight backpacks is a major contributing factor. In fact, the problem has become so widespread that some states have even passed legislation that would force school districts to find ways of reducing the weight of students’ backpacks.

Heavy backpacks can cause spinal strain and even deformity because, over time, a child’s back must compensate for any load it carries. Often, children will hyperextend/arch their back or lean their neck and trunk forward as a way to compensate for the weight of the backpack. These unnatural postures can cause excessive strain on the muscles in the neck and back, increasing the risk of injury and fatigue as well as irritation to the spinal joint and rib cage. Too much pressure on the shoulder, neck, upper back, and ribs can even lead to difficulty breathing as the thoracic area of the spine becomes compressed. This may lead to decreased lung capacity, which can tire out your child when they are exercising. Other risks of wearing an overloaded backpack include:

  • Rounded shoulders
  • Distortion of natural curves in the back
  • Disturbance of the natural center of gravity, reducing balance
  • Neck and muscle spasms
  • Chronic back, shoulder, neck, and hip pain

Children are too young to have to worry about back pain! Thankfully, with a few simple interventions wearing a backpack doesn’t have to cause significant musculoskeletal distress.

Pick the Right Backpack

We are currently in the midst of back-to-school shopping season, and there are a few things you should look for when purchasing a back-friendly backpack for your child. Make sure to choose a backpack that is:

  • Made from a lightweight material
  • Equipped with two padded, wide (at least two inches), adjustable shoulder straps
  • Padded at the part of the backpack that rests against the pack
  • Contains individual compartments
  • Has a hip strap, frame, or waist belt to help redistribute weight

Although the use of rollerpacks (backpacks on wheels) has become popular in recent years, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) now recommends that they be used on a limited basis, and only by students who are physically unable to carry a backpack. This is because they can clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous trips and falls.

Make Sure It Fits Properly

Before buying a backpack, you will also want to have your child try it on and adjust it to make sure that it fits properly. Backpacks shouldn’t hang too low; the pack itself should rest at least two inches above their waist. Straps should fit as snugly to the body as is comfortable in order to keep the load as close as possible to the back, and the width should be no greater than that of your child’s torso. 

Use Both Shoulders

Many children and teens like to sling their backpacks over one shoulder because apparently it looks cool. They won’t think it’s so cool, however, when they find themselves suffering from serious back pain. Lugging a backpack around by one strap can cause the load to disproportionately shift to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms as well as lower back pain. Make sure that your child always uses both shoulder straps and never buy a one-shoulder bag, as it is impossible to distribute the weight evenly!

Pack It Properly

The ACA recommends that backpacks should never weigh more than 10% of a child’s body weight. An ideal weight would be around 5%; any heavy and the backpack will likely cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on their neck, rather than their shoulders. Make sure to use individual compartments effectively when packing the backpack in order to distribute weight as evenly as possible. Keep point or bulky objects away from the area that rests on your child’s back. In general, heavier items should go in the back and lighter items towards the front. Lastly, make sure that your child cleans out their backpack weekly so as to deter the seemingly inevitable accumulation of junk.

Protect Your Child’s Back With Chiropractic FIRST

If you find your child complaining of back problems, chronic fatigue, or even difficulty breathing, be sure to check that their backpack is not the culprit. At Chiropractic FIRST, we recommend that any child attempting to recover from heavy backpack use should come in for regular spinal adjustments in order to correct any posture irregularities and to keep their spine strong and healthy and their muscles and ligaments relaxed. Get started by scheduling an initial appointment today!