I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a few hundred times before, but back pain affects over 35 million Americans, including many Florida residents. It is one of the most prevalent chronic pain conditions that U.S. adults face every single day. Whether it’s because you sit at a computer all day, your are in construction or you serve at a restaurant all day, back pain affects us all.
Statistics show that this form of pain is the single most common reason for missed work, and the second most common reason for visiting the doctor. So, as the kids head back to school, let’s take some time to investigate and provide solutions to backpacks and back pain and getting off on the right foot.
Back To School
These days many Florida schools do not have one set of books for home and a separate set of books for school, it’s just one set of books that kids have to lug from one place to another in their backpacks. Those backpacks get heavy, uneven, and tattered quite easily, and with no lockers to use either it’s up to the strength of backs to carry the weight.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, the weight of your child’s backpack should not exceed 15% of total body weight. If your child is carrying a heavy load, perhaps too many books or school supplies, it can place a great deal of strain on the muscles that support the back, thus leading to back and even shoulder pain. If the weight is too heavy, the backpack can actually pull the child backwards, in which the child will compensate by leaning forward at the hips or arching the back. This can cause the back to compress unnaturally, leading to increased pain. As with adults, many kids will not share this pain with their parents, and will just “tough it out,” assuming it’s just a part of being a student.
Do what you can to educate your child on the risks of wearing their backpack over just one shoulder. Sure, it has always been the ‘cool’ way to wear a backpack, but it is also the most detrimental in terms of throwing out vertebra in the back and placing unnecessary weight on back muscles. Because the backpack weight is unstable and unbalanced, one side of the body, one side of the back muscles, and one shoulder will take all of the strain.
Wearing the backpack too low on the back can put increased pressure on the shoulders and neck muscles, thus affecting the spine and back by increasing an imbalance in the spine.
Finally, if the child has a backpack with tight, narrow straps, those straps can interfere with circulation and nerves within the shoulder. This can cause pain, tingling, even numbness.
The Perfect Backpack
Having the right backpack, the right length straps and the right amount of weight within the backpack can save your child a lot of strain and irritability. In order to avoid back pain, the child must wear the backpack on both shoulders, keep the weight light, and maintain balance at all times.
A canvas backpack is always better than leather or plastic, as it will conform to the back and maintain balance better. The backpack straps must be adjustable, and at least two inches wide to evenly distribute the weight. The backpack should have individualized compartments in various locations to help evenly distribute the weight as well. If your child is required to carry books from class to class, as many are these days, you’ll need a backpack with a hip strap or waist belt to redistribute the weight from the shoulders and back to the pelvis. Finally, if possible, use a backpack with wheels so that you can avoid wearing one altogether.
With the kids back to school, they might be too excited, or nervous, to mention how heavy their backpacks are getting. They might try to tough out the pain or the struggling. But if you notice any increased irritability or tenderness in the back, start looking to your physician for back pain suggestions.