Backpacks come in all sorts of styles, colors, and fabrics. Children show their personality through their backpack. However, there are over 5000 injuries every school year related to heavy backpacks. Up to 20% percent of children miss school or sports activities because of pain caused by heavy backpacks and 30-50% of adolescents complain of abdominal muscle strain, or pain in the neck, shoulders, and back.
How Do Heavy Backpacks Cause Problems?
The spine is made of 33 vertebrae. The discs between the vertebrae act as natural shock absorbers. When a heavy backpack is incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the force pulls you backwards. To compensate, you bend forward at the hips and arch the back, which causes the spine to compress unnaturally. The heavy weight can then lead to abdominal strain, shoulder, neck and back pain.
Using Backpacks Wisely:
- A backpack should not weight more than 10-15% of a child’s body weight. A 100 pound child should have a maximum of 10-15 pound back pack. No backpack should weight more than 20 pounds.
- Choose a back pack made of light weight material.
- A backpack should not be wider than a child’s torso or hang more than 4 inches below the waist/belly button.
- Pick a backpack with padded, adjustable shoulder straps to help distribute the weight on the back without digging into the shoulders. Make certain the shoulder straps are tightened so the backpack is fitted to the back.
- The back of the backpack should be padded to protect against contents inside the backpack poking into the back.
- Pick a backpack with waist and chest straps to help distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly across the back.
- Always use both straps when carrying the backpack. Using one strap shifts the weight to one side and causes muscle pain and posture problems.
- Place heavier items closer to the back and center and put lighter items out front. Secure items in compartments so they do not shift.
If the backpack weighs more than 20 pounds, carry items in your hands in front of you so that the weight is distributed evenly from the front and the back and pressure is decreased to the spine. If you would like more information about gastrointestinal (GI) digestive disorders and nutrition in children, please contact Dr. Mona Dave’s Plano Office or Southlake Office.