While kids are enjoying the last days of summer vacation at the beach, parents are heading out to get those much needed school supplies. Parents should be aware of one item that requires special attention: your child’s backpack.
I know when I was in school it was “cool” to only wear your backpack on one shoulder. Well, I didn’t know how bad that was for my spine and posture. Kids are carrying far too much weight in their backpacks. Although long term effects of poor backpack use are unknown, most healthcare professionals agree that excessive weight and certain bag styles can cause nerve pressure around the neck that could lead to muscle spasms, neck or shoulder pain. In fact, The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 7,300 injuries were treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2006 because of backpacks.
Children shouldn’t carry more than 10-15% of their body weight. So, if your child weighs 100lbs, they shouldn’t carry more than 15lbs in their backpack. Parents can help pack their children’s backpacks, making sure they aren’t carrying too much weight. Periodic checks are also great because over time, items tend to accumulate in all the pockets.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) offers the following checklist to help parents select the best possible backpack for their children:
• Is the backpack the correct size for your child? The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child's torso, and the pack should not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking. Also, a bigger bag 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.
• Does the backpack have two wide, padded shoulder straps? Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and can dig into your child’s shoulders. Also, two shoulder straps are better than one. Lugging a heavy backpack by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
• Are the shoulder straps adjustable? 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.
• Does the backpack have a padded back? A padded back not only provides increased comfort, but also protects your child from being poked by sharp edges on school supplies (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.
• Is there a waist belt? Many backpacks have a waist belt that can be snugly buckled around the child’s waist. These belts can distribute the weight of a heavy load from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso.
• Does the pack have several compartments? A backpack with individualized compartments helps position 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, and try to place the heaviest items closet to the body
Parents should ask their kids to report any pain or other problem resulting from carrying a backpack. If the pain is severe or persistent, seek care from a health care professional, such as a doctor of chiropractic.
Toney Chiropractic & Wellness will be providing a Complimentary Back to School Spinal Check-Up to help educate students and parents about the health issues of backpacks and how children can safely and correctly carry them. The check up is available from now until Oct. 1, by calling their office at (228) 875-5200.
Toney Chiropractic & Wellness is located at 6616 Washington Ave, Ste D, in Ocean Springs and specializes in restoring spinal function and improving the quality of life through chiropractic care.