Backpacks: A Guide Toward Wellness

Children and teens across the country are getting ready for back to school – and it’s a good time for a quick refresher about backpacks and the potential for injury.

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In a new and disturbing trend, young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has previously reported that backpack-related injuries sent more than 7,000 people to the emergency room in one year’s time.

“In my own practice, I have noticed a marked increase in the number of young children who are complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain,” said Dr. Scott Bautch, a member of ACA’s Council on Occupational Health. “The first question I ask these patients is, ‘Do you carry a backpack to school?’ Almost always, the answer is ‘yes.'”

More and more school districts – many of them in urban areas – remove lockers from the premises, forcing students to carry their books with them all day long.

The problem has become so widespread, in fact, that some states have passed legislation that would force school districts to develop ways of reducing the weight of students’ backpacks. ACA believes that limiting the backpack’s weight to no more than 10 percent of a child’s body weight and urging the use of ergonomically correct backpacks are possible solutions.

What Can You Do?

ACA offers the following tips to help prevent the needless pain that backpack misuse could cause the students in your household.

  • Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.
  • The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.
  • A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back.
  • Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry-and the heavier the backpack will be.
  • Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
  • Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child’s shoulders.
  • The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
  • If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child’s teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.

If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, consider visiting a doctor of chiropractic (DC). DCs are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In addition, DCs can also prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.

About Discover Health & Wellness – Lakewood

Dr. Cecily Kampwerth of Discover Health & Wellness Denver is located just off  Jewel Avenue and Pierce Street – just East of Wadsworth Blvd., and offers patients a natural and holistic approach to health improvement and pain reduction.  Services at Discover Health & Wellness include chiropractic care, spinal correction, corrective exercises, lifestyle advice, nutritional counseling, massage therapy, allergy treatment and spinal and postural screenings.

Visit http://discoverhealthandwellness.com/ for more information on hours, services and location.

Discover Health & Wellness, Lakewood

6565 W Jewell Ave, #12a

Lakewood, CO 80232

(720) 535-8210