Backpacks Causing Back Pain – Safety Tips Your Kids Need To Know
A backpack filled with textbooks, binders, lunch, and other school supplies may make your kid feel like he has the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. But what may not be commonly acknowledged, even by the parents, are the risks associated with carrying around loaded backpacks. Recent statistics by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (1) demonstrate that more than 14,000 children are annually treated for backpack-related injuries.
Lugging a heavy backpack is terrible enough. Too often, kids don’t wear their packs correctly that increase the risk of injury. Improper wearing of packs may injure muscles, soft tissues, and joints. It can also lead to severe neck, back, and shoulder pain, as well as problems related to posture and gait. If your child also suffers from muscle strain, a stress fracture, or a joint condition like scoliosis, the weight can delay recovery or even aggravate the condition. The fallout from these symptoms could be missing school days and activities such as camps, scouts, and after-school sports.
Some additional factors may also play a role. For example, according to a 2016 study by the spine journal (2), it is the carrying time, not the weight of your backpack that causes back pain and neck pain. The study also suggests that teen girls are more likely to experience severe backpack-related pain compared to boys.
Not all backpacks are built equal. You don’t need to spend money on the most expensive pack for your child. Rather, you should keep in mind some Do’s and Don’t of wearing a backpack to prevent your child from experiencing back and neck pain.
Safety Guide To Wearing A Backpack
- Material – Choose custom-made backpacks that are specially designed for kids. Avoid bags made up of leather or other heavy fabrics.
- Length – The bottom of the backpack should be two-three inches below the waist.
- Weight Distribution – The backpack should be worn on both shoulders to avoid putting too much strain on one side of the spine. Additionally, use backpacks with equal compartments on both sides and put the heaviest items closest to your back to help distribute the weight of the contents.
- Weight Ratio – An ideal backpack should be less than 10-15 percent of your kid’s body weight, according to The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (3). This means that if your kid weighs 100 pounds, his backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 15 pounds.
- Waist Strap – Children should always use a backpack with thick and wider waist straps (preferably padded ones) to put less stress on shoulders.
- Try a pack with wheels – If the school of your child allows rolling packs, consider trying a bag with wheels. It is the easiest way to offload weight from your kid’s shoulders.
- Too large backpack – Most parents often make a major mistake by buying a backpack that is too large for the size of their child. The ideal backpack size should be from the lower end of the neck till the tail-bone.
- A wider day pack – Your child’s pack should not be wider than his body.
- Put weight on one side – Tell your kid to avoid wearing only one strap of the backpack. This shifts weight to one side.
- Carry a backpack for a long time – Don’t let the backpack hang on your shoulders for an extended period. Consider offloading it every 10-15 minutes.
- Extra packing – Make sure your kid is not toting unnecessary things like video games, laptops, and CD players. These can add a lot of pounds.
Safety Vs Style… Is it worth the long-term damage?
Don’t give preference to fashion over function and comfort. Some backpacks look and feel great; however, don’t create musculoskeletal problems for your children by choosing a stylish but less functional day pack. Also, kids grow and change, so don’t buy a huge backpack for your child to grow into. As a parent, you may always want a pack that lasts for years, but that’s one of the worst things you can do.
Alternatively, you can consider buying a new set of books for use at home to avoid taking the entire load to and from school. Furthermore, you should also consider a visit to the doctor or physiotherapist to evaluate your child’s core weakness, tight back muscles, abnormal gait, and poor posture.