As our kids return to school we need to be aware of a new trend that has been gaining “popularity” in the last few years, an increase in neck and back pain. With more and more school districts removing lockers, increase in homework and textbooks and the disallowance of roll along backpacks, students are being forced to carry their books in their backpacks all day long. Not only will this potentially cause a painful problem, but if one already exists, it can exacerbate it. This new and disturbing trend shows America’s youth are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor. The new trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks – usually slung over just one shoulder.
Preliminary results of a study being done in France show that the longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for a curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself. Like with any problem, it needs to be recognized and addressed if change is to take place to correct the situation. If your child begins to feel pain in his neck or back, consult your Chiropractor, Physician or therapist immediately before the condition worsens.
A few basic guidelines should be followed to insure proper fit and address spinal health and biomechanical stability.
· Limiting the backpack’s weight to 10% of the child’s body weight and urging the use of ergonomically correct backpacks are essential.
· The backpack should never 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.
· 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. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks. Or encourage your local school district to purchase textbooks on CD-Rom.
· Although the use of rollerpacks, or backpacks on wheels, has become popular in recent years, it is recommended that they be used cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack.
· Encourage your child to exercise and strengthen the muscles of the back and neck.
By following these simple guidelines you may help your child get more out of school than an aching back.