Many of us associate back pain with older individuals but did you know that it can start as early as elementary school and one of the leading causes of this back pain in children is…. Backpacks.

Backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers. Improperly worn backpacks may injure muscles and joints, leading to chronic neck, shoulder and back pain as well as postural problems.
A recent study in the Archive of Disease in childhood looked at the health of 1403 students aged 12-17. 1 in 4 of these students admitted to suffering from back pain the previous year. Interestingly enough more than 60% of students were carrying backpacks weighing more than 10% of their body weight.

How can a backpack cause pain in a child? Pain results when the weight of the backpack pulls the child backward causing them to bend forward or arch their backs in order to keep the backpack centered with their center of gravity. To compensate for this the children must hold their neck up and lean forward, which can also predispose them to neck pain. This position can compress the spine and add pressure to the vertebrae and the discs between them.

What can you do?

Choose a backpack that has the following features:
– Wide with padded shoulder straps
– 2 shoulder straps
– A padded back
– A waist strap
– Lightweight back pack
– Rolling backpack

What else can you do as a parent?
– Encourage your child or teenager to tell you if they are experiencing any numbness, tingling or discomfort in the arms or legs
– Watch your child put on their backpack to see if they do it with ease or if it is a struggle and they have to hoist it up
– Do not ignore any back or neck pain in your child or teenager, they are young enough that chronic pain can be prevented
– Try to get them to lighten the load, place heavier objects in the middle and bottom and lighter objects on top and on the sides

Happy Back to School!

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