Back pain in children can be very disturbing as a child’s spine is still developing and can only handle a certain amount of stress without causing damage. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission found during a recent study that 75% of children in the age range of 8 to 12 years were complaining of back pain. What was causing these children to have back pain? It was connected to the number of things they were carrying in their backpacks for school.
According to a recent estimate, 96 percent of children in school are carrying way too much on their backs. In fact, 5,000 children every year go to the emergency department for backpack injuries. And, more than 14,000 children are treated yearly for related problems. Around 60 percent of orthopedic doctors report they are treating children who go to school for back pain due to the weight of backpacks.
It is noted that if a child has a backpack weighing 12 pounds and carries it around, setting it down at least 10 times during the day, he is carrying as much as 21,600 pounds, the weight of 6 mid-size cars! This becomes even more serious if a child has scoliosis, a stress fracture, or muscle strain. The weight they are carrying can cause these conditions to worsen and even delay their recovery. So, what can parents do to help their children not do any further damage to their delicate, growing spines?
Helping Children to Avoid Back Pain
David Marshall, a medical director of sports medicine at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, says the fallout from this heavy backpack use causes children to miss not only school but also physical education classes, after-school activities, and camps. What are his suggestions?
Another set of books that the child can leave at home may be helpful. Then your child does not have to carry the books back and forth to school. He also recommends bringing your child to the doctor to have his or her core strength, back muscles, and posture evaluated.
Some parents may opt for rolling bags and they are gaining popularity. In fact, they are beginning to be looked at as cool by school-age children. However, there are dangers associated with these as well. Some students must maneuver staircases. In other situations, the bags can pose a tripping hazard as they are sitting in the hallway or classroom or even being tugged along behind a child.
To learn more about the connection between head and neck injuries and back pain download our complimentary e-book Natural and Drug-Free Ways to End Your Back Pain and Sciatica by clicking the image below.
Marshall recommends following the tips to help your child lighten the load:
- A backpack that has a chest belt or a padded waist is a great option as it distributes the weight more evenly across the entire body.
- Multiple compartments in a backpack also helps to distribute the weight more consistently.
- Be sure your child’s backpack has two wide straps with padding to go over the shoulders and make sure he or she is always using both straps.
- Ensure that your child is only carrying what is necessary and is not taking items he does not need like video games, CD players, or laptops.
- The backpack your child uses should never be wider than his body.
- Your child’s backpack should never weigh more than 15% of his body weight. You can determine this by using a bathroom scale and help your child know what this should feel like.
- Metal framed backpacks – such as those used by hikers – are a good option. Be sure these types of backpacks are acceptable at your child’s school.
- Help your child to develop strong lower back and abdominal muscles to avoid injury. Weight training and Pilates are activities that help to strengthen core muscles.
- Teach your child how to properly pick up his backpack by bending at his knees and using both hands to lift the pack to his shoulders.
- When carrying heavy items, they should be placed closer to the body in the backpack.
Here’s a safety inspection checklist you can refer to in helping you to ensure the health of your child’s back:
- No more than 10-15% of body weight
- Abdominal strap in place
- Both shoulder straps with padding being used
- Heavier books placed closest to the back
- Weight of backpack not below the pant line
- Well-lined and padded backpack so as not to be poked by pencils or rulers
Keeping the Spine Healthy to Avoid Back Pain
Another area that deserves some serious attention is determining how healthy your child’s spine is. It is easy to assume most children have healthy spines, but this is not always the case. The upper cervical spine is susceptible to damage due to simple trips and falls, sporting accidents, or vehicle accidents. And, because the spine is still developing, an injury now can lead to a lifetime of problems down the road.
Here at Symmetry Health Chiropractic Center in Cedar Park, Texas, we help our young, school-age patients by examining the neck for any misalignments that may be present. If we find something that needs to be corrected, we then employ a method both gentle and safe for all ages to help realign the neck bones. We are not required to pop or crack the neck to move the bones back into place. Rather, we use a natural method that encourages the bones to move back into place by using light pressure.
Ensuring the health of your child’s spine by regular visits can reduce the risk of serious injury due to the weight of backpacks.
To schedule a complimentary consultation call our Cedar Park, TX office at 512-331-7422 You can also click the button below.