When we think about back pain, we tend to think that adults are the only ones suffering from it. But that just isn’t the case, and it’s time we start paying attention because back pain is not just for adults.

Every school year, millions of children walk to, from, and around school carrying backpacks. Just about the time a child enters middle school, his or her backpack burden starts to grow. Laden with everything from books, to sports gear, to cell phones, and laptops, kids’ backpacks get weighed down quite a bit with their school essentials.

As parents and their children begin their back to school shopping and start to get ready for the new school year, they should remember to pay attention to the small things that can get easily overlooked with respect to their children’s health. Parents should be aware that overly stressing their child’s back with a heavy backpack could cause serious back pain.

In fact, between 30 to 50 percent of children have complaints of back pain that may be caused by their backpacks! Overloaded backpacks can cause detrimental changes to posture and result in back pain or even numbness or tingling in the arms and legs.

What Can You Do About It?

Fortunately, there are some simple and quick changes that can be made to dramatically reduce the risk of back pain due to heavy backpacks:

  • First and foremost, make sure that the backpacks you purchase for your children fit correctly. An appropriately fit backpack should rest squarely on the child’s back about two to three inches below their shoulders and hang no more than two to three inches below the waist.
  • Secondly, you should consider the style of the backpack. Even though “messenger bags” or any single strapped backpacks have become increasingly popular, they actually distribute the weight unevenly across a child’s body. These single strapped bags can change the way a child stands and moves. They should be avoided at all costs. Instead, a backpack with two well-padded straps is much better, and one that rolls is the best option.
  • The third important thing to consider when it comes to backpacks is the load. No child should be lugging around more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. How the bag is packed can make a difference too. The heaviest items should be loaded first and placed closest to the body. If a child’s backpack exceeds this capacity, it is time to think about alternatives to heavy textbooks, like web based curriculums or books on CD.

When a child has the right style of backpack that fits correctly and is not overloaded with heavy materials, we can prevent unwanted stress or pressure to their shoulders, neck, and back. Taking these measures also eliminates the need for the child to hunch forward in order to manage their heavy load and stay upright. Parents should keep in mind that so many of the postural problems seen later in life started as bad habits when we were children! Raise awareness now to ensure a long back-pain-free life for your children.

Next Step Solutions…

If your child is suffering from back pain, or you have any questions and want more tips regarding proper backpack choice, give Physio Physical Therapy in Asheville, NC a call at (828) 348-1780.

Christopher Taylor, PT

Chris Taylor is the Founding Physical Therapist at PHYSIO Physical Therapy and Wellness Asheville. He has been voted Best Physical Therapist in Western North Carolina every year by the Mountain XPress Reader Poll. His experience includes being a patient himself which deepens his understanding of each aspect of the rehab process. He has lived and worked in 11 states which contributes to the treatment style he has developed which breaks the mold. Become a better You today! #KeepAshevilleActive