With children bringing home more and more homework in backpacks many parents wonder: does a heavy backpack cause long-term back problems? It seems like common sense that a heavy backpack could cause long-term back problems, however, this is not exactly the case.
According to Dr. Todd Ritzman from Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, heavy backpacks may cause short-term neck, back, and shoulder pain, but they do not cause long-term back issues or spinal deformities.
One of the major reasons why a backpack can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain is that the backpack is too heavy for the child carrying it. Most doctors and physical therapists agree that a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10-15% of his or her body weight. For instance, a 12 year old child who weighs 90 pounds should not carry a backpack heavier than 13.5 pounds.
The second most common reason why backpacks cause neck, back, and shoulder pain is because the backpack is not placed correctly over the child’s shoulder. For instance, if your child wears his or her backpack over just one shoulder, then all of the weight of the backpack is going to be placed upon one side of the body and no weight on the other side. This can cause significant pain to the side of the body that the backpack is placed on. Because more weight is being placed on one side, the child may lean in the opposite direction to help balance the weight. This might contribute to lower and upper back pain, as well as strain on the neck and shoulders. Consistently adjusting weight to one side can also cause posture issues. For more information on improving posture, read our 8 Tips for Improving Your Posture article.
What Should I Do If My Child Has Back Pain?
If you think that your child’s back pain was caused by a heavy backpack, stop using the backpack and try a roller backpack, instead. If, after three days, your child’s back still hurts, you should contact a chiropractor for an evaluation. If there is pain in one specific location, your child could have a stress fracture or an infection. Depending on the severity of the pain, you may need to consult with your child’s primary physician.
How to Pick Out a Backpack
When picking out a backpack for your child, the first thing you should look for is a backpack with thick shoulder straps. Thin straps can easily dig into shoulders, causing pinching and muscle soreness. The thicker straps help distribute the weight of the backpack more effectively. Some backpacks also have lumbar padding, side straps with padding, and separate compartments for better weight distribution. When it comes to purchasing a backpack, it may be better to spend a few extra dollars on a quality product, versus cheaper backpacks that do not have as much padding.
If your child has experienced back pain from a backpack, contact the chiropractors at Advanced Chiropractic & Holistic Wellness Center. Call today to set up a free consultation.