Backpacks and Chronic Pain
Back pain is pervasive among American adults, but a new and disturbing trend is emerging: Young children are suffering from back pain. The use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). This new back pain trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks— often slung over just one shoulder. Studies have shown that slinging a backpack over one shoulder could exacerbate the curvature of the spine in scoliosis patients. According to the ACA, preliminary results of studies being conducted show that the longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for a curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself.
The questions that need to be addressed next is, does it ever return to normal? And, what Can You Do?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of his or her body weight.
Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load.
The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking. A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning 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. Bigger 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. Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain. Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and can dig into your child’s shoulders. 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. If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child’s teacher.
If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call Laveen Physical Medicine. With our team of doctors, chiropractors, athletic trainers, massage therapist and physical therapists, we are trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages.
Written by Dr. Adriana Aguilera
Dr. Adriana Aguilera, D.O. is Medical Director of Laveen Physical Medicine and Laveen Urgent Care. The facility offers several services to help patients with joint and back pain. Therapies range from medication and injections to massage, physical therapy and manipulation. Diagnostic imaging such as ultrasounds and x-rays are performed on site. A financial planner is available to consult with patient’s insurance company and coordinate benefits. All patients are considered, from those with chronic joint pain to acute injuries (motor vehicle accidents, workman’s compensation or athletic injuries). For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Elsa at 602-237-1105.