Each morning millions of students across the nation are racing to the school bus or scurrying to their classrooms with an overstuffed back-pack slung over one shoulder. While carrying a back-pack to school each morning might seem harmless, it can cause painful back and neck problems for your children who do not pack or carry their back packs properly.
Here are a few tips to help prevent the children in your household from the aches and pains of an injured spine caused by an overstuffed back-pack.
- Make sure your child’s back-pack weighs no more than 5-10% of his or her body weight. Any heavier than that, the heavy back-pack will cause your child to begin to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back rather than carrying the weight on the shoulder straps as designed. Not only does this cause stress on the neck and shoulders, but the flexing motion causes stress in the low back as well.
- A back-pack with individualized compartments will help you distribute the weight throughout the backpack more evenly. And as a bonus, it will help to prevent your child’s sandwich from being flattened by that heavy science book.
- When packing the back-pack make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back. An uneven surface rubbing against your child’s back can cause painful blisters and cause your child to walk with an awkward posture.
- If the back-pack is still too heavy talk to your child’s teacher. It might be possible for your child to leave the heaviest books at school and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.
Utilizing the Shoulder Straps Effectively
- Tell your child to use both shoulder straps, not just one. A back-pack slung over one shoulder disproportionately shifts all of the weight to one side and can cause not only neck and muscle spasms, but also low back pain.
- Padded shoulder straps are very important. Not only will they be more comfortable than non-padded straps, they will also help prevent the straps from digging into your child’s shoulders.
- Shoulder straps should be adjustable so the back-pack can be fitted to your child’s body. Shoulder straps that are too loose can cause the back-pack to dangle, which causes the spine to go into extension. This can lead to misalignment of the spine as well as pain.
As adults, we seem to think that back pain is not something that our young children deal with, this is not the case. Longstanding ergonomic stress to our children's spines will cause chronic issues that will bother them down the road. Talk to your child about the proper use of back-packs and help him or her understand why this and other ergonomic issues are important. A child who is educated early in life on ergonomic issues can apply this knowledge later in life at home or in the office and will be happier and healthier as a result.
Dr. Jesse J. Suess, DC
310 N. Maple Ave.
Ridgewood, NJ 07450