Back to School… and that Shouldn’t Mean Back Pain!

Back to School… and that Shouldn’t Mean Back Pain!

This year, National Backpack Awareness Day is September 20! Most students look forward to back to school shopping and getting a new backpack for the upcoming school year. With so many colors and styles to choose from, their backpack is a prominent way for a student to show their personality and individuality. Sadly, it won’t be long after school starts that they dread carrying it to class and back.

As curriculums grow and more and more is demanded of young students, backpacks are weighed down with additional books and supplies. This additional weight strains the children. The heavier the load, the greater the spinal strain and increased back pain according to a study published in the January issue of Spine. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals, and institutions in medicine.

In addition to increasing weight, another contributor to the strain caused by backpacks is the manner in which the majority of students carry their backpacks. According to Dr. Scott Bautch, a chiropractor from Wausau, Wisconsin, “Many of these kids are carrying a quarter of their body weight over their shoulders for a large portion of the day. That’s equivalent to a 180-pound man carrying around a 45-pound load.”

One good thing to note is that backpack design has undergone a major transformation in recent years and most are designed to be ergonomic while remaining trendy and fashionable. They also accommodate the majority of electronics that students are toting around including laptops, cell phones, and iPads.

How can you, as a parent, make sure that your child’s backpack will serve its purpose without causing any physical stress? Make sure it weighs no more than 10 percent of his or her body weight. Check to see if your child stoops or leans forward when wearing the backpack on both shoulders. It should also never hang more than 4 inches below the waistline to decrease the pressure on the shoulders. Buy a bag with padded straps. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child’s shoulders.

We hope that you will use this day as a reminder to take a moment to notice your child when they pick up their backpack to see if they seem comfortable or if maybe they might need a different bag.