Back pain is pervasive among American adults, but in the past couple of years a new disturbing trend is emerging, and this one in many ways, is of greater concern. Young Children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a major contributing factor, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, the use of book bags or backpacks has resulted in thousands of injuries in the past decade.
“In my own practice, I have noticed a marked increase in the number of young children who are complaining about back, neck, and shoulder pain,” notes Dr. James Fedich, Clinic Director at Village Family Clinic in Allamuchy Township. “The first question I ask these young patients … is ‘Do you carry a backpack to school?’ Almost always, the answer is yes.”
This new back pain trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amount of weight they carry in their backpacks – often slung over just one shoulder.
According to a recent study, the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man, or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman. Of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result.
Preliminary results of other 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 question that needs to be addressed next is, ‘Does it ever return to normal?'” asks Dr. Fedich, who invites anyone in for a free backpack “checkup” to see if their children’s backpacks are compliant with safety standards. “With young children you really want to be especially careful and not have long-term damage. It’s not something you want to mess with.”
The results of these studies are especially important as more and more school districts remove lockers from the premises, forcing students to carry their books with them all day long.
The American Chiropractic Association recommends the following tips to help prevent needless pain from backpack misuse:
- Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight.
- The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline.
- A backpack with individualized compartments helps position contents most effectively.
- Bigger is not better. More room in the bag, more things will be put in it.
- Urge your child to wear both straps.
- Wide, padded straps are very important to distribute the weight.
- Shoulder straps should be adjustable.