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August 29, 2011

 As children head back to school in September, a disturbing new trend is emerging… young children are suffering from back pain much sooner than generations before them. A major contributing factor seems to be a heavy backpack. Most parents (and children) are unaware of the potential injury that heavy backpacks can cause.

A recent news release by the American Physical Therapy Association in April 2009 revealed that more than 50 percent of children surveyed carry backpacks that are too heavy.  If a backpack is stuffed with heavy books and/or worn incorrectly, the biomechanical pressure on the spine increases dramatically.   As a result, your child may lean forward to compensate. This can cause shoulder, neck, or back pain.

To help your child’s back, here’s what you can do:

  1.  Pack smart. Make sure that your child gets in the habit of cleaning out their bag daily, leaving things that aren’t needed at home or in their locker.
  2. Distribute weight evenly. Teach your child to wear both straps, not just one. This helps to distribute the weight evenly.
  3. Pay attention to your child’s posture. If your child is slouching or leaning over to one side, chances are that the backpack is too heavy. If there are any signs of pain, tingling, or numbness consult your doctor or physical therapist immediately.
  4. Get the “right” backpack. Consider getting a backpack with multiple compartments to keep the weight more evenly distributed. Make sure there are 2 wide and well-padded straps that add comfort to the shoulder. If the bag has one strap, the weight distribution is uneven, causing the child to lean forward or to the side. Also, tighten the straps so the backpack is close to the body and rests in the middle of the back, not at the buttocks.
  5. Lift the backpack properly. Teach your child how to lift the backpack correctly by bending at the knees and lift with both hands before putting it on.
  6. Reduce the load. Doctors and physical therapists strongly recommend children carry bags that are no more than 10-15% of their body weight. However, less is always better. This means that if your child weighs 100 lbs., the backpack should weigh no more than 15 lbs. to avoid injury.

Contact us to learn more about the correct posture and movement patterns for children in your household.

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