The start of a new school year can be hectic. New schedules, new supplies, and sometimes even new schools can be thrown into the chaos. Developing good habits now will set the trend for the rest of the school year. One of the most important aspects is your child’s backpack. As a parent, your child’s health and safety is top priority. Recognizing proper backpack usage is vital to ensuring your child is not causing long-term damage to their growing and developing spine. Take a look at some stats and facts when it comes down to your child’s backpack:
- More than 79 million children and adolescents carry backpacks–these can be crammed with gym clothes, books, binders, computers, school supplies and more
- A report by Simmons College revealed that 55 percent of students surveyed between 5th and 8th grade were carrying packs weighing more than 15 percent their body weight—and a third of those students had experienced back pain
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision reported that in 2011 nearly 14,000 children, between the ages of 5 and 18, were hospitalized for backpack related injuries
- Backpack related injuries include contusions, sprains and strains to the back and shoulders, and even fractures–not to mention long term health complications from developing bad posture
What is the cause of the problem?
Often these injuries are the result of a variety of factors. As a parent, you want to take into account these 5 factors:
1. The weight of the backpack. Your child’s backpack should weigh less than 10-20% of their overall body weight. The lower percentage is especially important in younger children. When you’re carrying an overloaded or heavy backpack, it can cause your upper body to lean forward and your head to translate forward. This may cause strain to the back, neck and shoulders — over time this can seriously affect the healthy curvature of the spine.
2. Size of the backpack in relation to the child’s body. Remember, there is no such thing as one size fits all when choosing a backpack. Use the manufacturer’s recommendation to determine what size is best. There are even mini-packs designed for kids who go to daycare.
3. The distribution of weight in the backpack. Heavier books and items should be packed closer to the child’s back. The lighter the item the farther away from the child it goes. Also, keep in mind left to right weight distribution. This will ensure even weight on both shoulders.
4. Poorly designed straps. Stay away from thin straps. Also make sure the straps have extra padding for the shoulders.
5. Improper wear. Make sure your child is wearing the backpack the way it is designed for. Improper wear like slinging the backpack over one shoulder can cause issues. Studies have shown that wearing a backpack on one shoulder may increase the curvature of the spine in scoliosis patients — a population which largely consists of girls between the ages of 10 to 15.
The 4 key backpack warning signs are:
- Complaints of pain or discomfort while wearing the backpack or even later in the day or week without the backpack on.
- Change in your child’s posture while wearing the backpack (i.e., leaning forward, tilting to one side, forward head carriage)
- Difficulty putting on the backpack or taking it off.
- Red marks on shoulders.
Action steps to ensure your child’s backpack is safe.
Make sure you purchase a quality backpack with wide padded straps. A padded back or waist also helps. Make sure the backpack has an even distribution of weight—and keep the weight below 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight. If you’re not sure you have the proper pack for your child, consult with your chiropractor for more information, and make an appointment for a spinal evaluation.
During the month of August, Vibrance Family Chiropractic is offering complimentary spinal evaluations for K-12 kids. The evaluations include a consultation, exam, and a backpack safety check. Call 615-915-1255 to schedule an appointment.