As you send your children back to school, keep these factors in mind. Increasing use of backpacks at a younger age to carry heavier school books has lead to an invisible epidemic of child injuries. Worse, most of these injuries go undiagnosed. “Carrying a heavy backpack is bad enough,” says physician David Marshall, medical director of sports medicine at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, “but if a child also suffers from scoliosis, a stress fracture or muscle strain, the weight can aggravate the condition or delay recovery.”
To prevent these injuries, parents should educate themselves on proper ergonomic backpack design and use. They can also prevent undiagnosed conditions from becoming exacerbated with early intervention and chiropractic care for child back pain. By buying the right backpack, using it properly and having your child’s spinal cord health monitored regularly, you can empower them for lifelong wellness and a lower chance of debilitating injury.
Guidelines for Children’s Backpack Weight, Design, and Use
Reducing your child’s risk of injury starts with selecting the right backpack for them. Firstly, the backpack should be the right size. Many parents select far too big of backpacks since children tend to want more “grown up” designs and parents expect them to “grow into it.” The fact is that backpacks are designed to distribute the weight a certain way, centering it on the hips and lower back to prevent over-extension of the spine. By selecting the right-size backpack, you can promote proper posture while reducing their chance of injury.
A proper-fitting backpack has:
- Two wide shoulder straps that comfortably rest in the middle of the shoulder without sliding down
- A width that does not extend past the sides of the child’s body; if you can see the backpack sides while they face forward, it is too wide
- A bottom that does not extend past the child’s SI joint, where the spine meets the hips, when fully loaded
- Straps that can adjust to keep the rear of the pack flat against the body, not hanging off of it
- Multiple compartments to distribute weight more evenly
- Padding to cushion support and prevent poking of sharp objects or book corners
Additionally, the backpack should never exceed 15% of the child’s body weight when fully loaded.
Parents wishing to improve backpack supportiveness and reduce the risk of injury further can look to backpacks with padded waist belts or chest belts, which recenter weight on the hips and move it away from the shoulders and upper back.
The most ergonomic backpacks possible, called “airpacks,” now have lumbar air cushions. These cushions help naturally re-adjust the weight to straighten the wearer’s posture. Air cushions in the shoulder straps also reduce the load on the shoulders and add to comfort. ACT Wellness can supply you with these products or direct you to a licensed retailer.
Seeking Chiropractic Care for Child Back Pain Related to Heavy Backpacks
Despite the guidelines above, 55% of young students carry more than 15% of their body weight in backpacks. They also contort their posture and cause stress on their spines through practices like lowering shoulder straps below their hips or distributing weight on the upper back rather than the hips.
60% of children’s orthopedic visits for back and shoulder pain are related to complications from improper backpack use. These complications also cause an estimated 21,000 emergency room visits a year from acute back pain, herniated discs and more.
If your child suffers from any of these issues, early diagnosis is key for avoiding further damage. You can have their condition evaluated by a professional pediatric chiropractor in Woodbridge, VA. They can diagnose the child’s condition through state-of-the-art imagery and develop a care plan for targeted adjustments that relieve stress on critical spinal nerves while alleviating debilitating pain and postural problems.
Make your child’s school year safe and pain-free when you get the right backpack for them, and book an appointment to visit the chiropractor in the near future.