Experts suggest that backpacks should not exceed about 10 percent of a child’s body weight. However, students often haul more weight on their shoulders due to the multiple textbooks, school supplies, sports gear, and other essentials they need during the day.
Carrying more than their fair share of items might keep them from going back and forth to their locker, but this can take a toll on your child’s body–specifically the back.
In this blog, we’ll explain everything you need to know about how the wrong backpack can impact your child. We’ll also share a few tips on selecting a better backpack to steer clear of back pain.
Get the right backpack to avoid back pain.
Heavy backpacks and back problems go hand in hand. Here are some pointers for new backpack shopping:
- Smaller backpacks are harder to overfill. A small backpack can keep your child from bending forward too much and hurting their back. Ask your child the types of items they use on a daily basis. Have them separate those items into three piles: (1) must-haves, (2) leave at home, or (3) put in my locker. The goal is to reduce the total weight of what your child is carrying around each day. Then, find a backpack that holds their basic needs.
- Backpacks with multiple pockets help distribute the weight. This takes the pressure off your child’s back. When your child packs a backpack with various pockets (e.g., for a laptop, water bottle, lunch, etc.), they can organize the contents so that nothing is poking them in the back and causing pain while they’re going from class to class.
- Large straps with padding can make a huge difference in your child’s comfort. Padding keeps the straps from digging into your child’s shoulders, which prevents them from adjusting the backpack throughout the day. If your child’s shoulder straps are uncomfortable, they may sling the backpack over one shoulder instead, which can cause back problems and neck pain over time. Be sure to adjust the straps before your child goes to school to make sure the backpack is comfortable. (Not adjusting the straps can put your child’s spine out of alignment, which can contribute to back pain and require a chiropractic)
- The right fit is important (not too short, not too long). This goes back to the straps and size of the backpack. Your child’s straps should be just the right length (not too short, just about two inches beneath the shoulder) so that it doesn’t cause pain or restrict their range of motion. However, the straps and backpack shouldn’t be too long, either. If the backpack is greater than four inches past your child’s waist, it could lead to excess pressure on the shoulder muscles. This may also affect your child’s posture by causing them to slouch to ensure the backpack stays on.
- A waist strap could be beneficial. Using the waist strap may do wonders for back pain. How does it work? Often, all they’ll need to do is buckle the strap so that it sits across the waistline. This stabilizes the back, which helps to reduce pain.
Possible Effects of a Backpack on a Child’s Back, Shoulders, and Neck
If your child stuffs their backpack too full, their back, shoulders, and neck may suffer the consequences. The shoulders and back should support the backpack’s weight. However, excess weight may cause pain in those areas just as fast.
According to one article, heavy backpacks may affect the back’s curvature, which can strain the muscles as well as agitate the spine and ribs. Your child may also have to walk hunched over to keep everything in the backpack in place. While this may be a convenient, short-term fix to go between classes, there’s a significant chance of middle and lower back pain from the backpack.
If your child complains of lower back pain after carrying a heavy bag, ask them about their neck. The weight could add pressure to the neck and other parts of the body, which can be uncomfortable and cause them to walk with incorrect posture to stop the pain.
How to Combat Back Problems With the Right Backpack
Once you’ve helped your child find the right backpack, teaching them how to wear it is important to prevent back pain. Remind your child that two straps are better than one, meaning that they should always take the extra time to put on that second strap–even if the next class is just up the hallway.
Also, encourage them to keep the backpack as empty as possible. There are often plenty of items that your child can leave at home or place in their locker. That will take the weight off their back and shoulders.
In case your child feels uncomfortable at any point, show them how to adjust their shoulder straps. This is an easy, quick way to fix the way the backpack fits and improve your student’s comfort level.
They should also know how to pack the backpack. It’s best to include textbooks at the base of the backpack. The pockets should be used to prevent too much weight in one area of the back. Adjusting the straps is also vital to help the backpack stay comfortable and prevent it from moving too much in one direction, which can take a toll on your back, neck, and shoulders.
Chiropractic care can help.
Not only do we provide chiropractic care to parents, but we also offer it to your kids. We can realign your child’s spine and adjust the back to relieve pain. We can also treat other symptoms your child could be experiencing, including shoulder and arm pain. One of our goals is to stabilize areas that are unstable. Often, our mid-back and shoulders are not as strong as we think, and we need to build strength to support our posture. In the clinic we can also administer educational exercises to learn how to carry ourselves upright and get the right muscles working to take pressure away from our neck and lower back.
If your child complains of back pain, take a closer look at their backpack. If it doesn’t meet the criteria we mentioned above, it’s time to find a new one. With a new, well-fitted backpack and a chiropractor’s help, your child’s back will feel better soon enough.
Interested in giving Summit Chiropractic and Sports Institute a try? We’d love to learn more about what’s going on with your child and see how we can help. Schedule a consultation today.