While back pain is a known and widely-studied issue in adults, its prevalence in school-aged children has received comparatively little scientific attention. School students must often carry backpacks that weigh enough to cause chronic back pain and poor posture.
Are Backpacks Too Heavy for Kids?
Recent research supports that children carrying backpack loads of more than ten percent of their bodyweight have a greater risk of developing back pain and related issues. An international study found that an alarmingly large proportion of school-aged children in Australia, France, Italy, and the United States regularly carried backpacks weighing more than the ten percent threshold.
Proper Backpack Carrying Techniques
The studies revealed several factors that may help reduce back pain in school-aged children. The best way to prevent back pain is to avoid carrying heavy loads.
Children should take advantage of their breaks and only carry items necessary for a couple of classes at a time. When lifting a backpack, children should crouch down and bend their knees rather than curve the spine.
While not conclusive, research also supports that carrying the weight differently, e.g., by hand rather than by backpack, may help prevent or reduce back pain. The American Occupational Therapy Association and the American Chiropractic Association offer these additional safe backpack etiquette tips:
- Children should avoid carrying over 10 percent of their bodyweight in their backpack. For example, an 8th-grader weighing 120 pounds should carry no more than 12 pounds.
- Place the heaviest objects at the back of the pack.
- Make sure the items fit as snugly as possible to minimize back pain due to shifting weight.
- Adjust the shoulder straps so they fit snugly over your child's shoulders and the backpack doesn't drag your child backward. The bottom of the pack should be less than four inches below your child's waist.
- Children should avoid carrying backpacks slung over one shoulder, as it can cause spinal pain and general discomfort.
- Encourage your child to carry only necessary items in their backpack. Additional items can be carried in hand.
- Look for backpacks with helpful features such as multiple compartments for even weight distribution, padded straps to protect the shoulders and neck, and waist belt.
- If your child's school allows, consider a rollerpack, which rolls across the floor like a suitcase.
- If problems continue, talk to your child's teacher or principal about implementing paperback textbooks, lighter materials, or digital versions.
Chiropractic Care Can Help
If your child continues to experience back pain, contact one of our chiropractors. Chiropractic care benefits many adults with spinal discomfort and can also provide tailored treatments for children.
Chiropractors can also recommend safe exercises to improve back strength, and additional advice on proper nutrition to build strong bones and joints, healthy posture, and more. If your child is experiencing back pain from carrying a backpack, gives us a call. We’re here to help!