There is so much going on at the beginning of the school year that it is easy for parents to miss one important detail — our kids and heavy backpacks. Today, well-informed parents pay close attention to the weight their child must bare each day and how it affects their health.

A Little About the Spine

The spine is more than just the bones that cover the spinal cords. It serves as infrastructure that allows you to stand upright and move around. At birth, a baby’s spine is shaped like the letter “C” and then changes as the baby grows. Spine development milestones continue as the child gets older, right around the time backpacks come into their lives. 

The Effects on Kids and Heavy Backpacks

Each year, about 14,000 children require treatment for backpack-related injuries such as:

  • Chronic low back pain
  • Strained necks and shoulders
  • Headaches 
  • Difficulty breathing due to poor posture
  • Scoliosis 
  • Back spasms

More serious conditions can lead to:

  • Slipped vertebrae
  • Stress fractures
  • Spinal infection
  • Sleep apnea
  • TMJ

All it takes to avoid these potentially life-changing health problems is a little forethought.

What Makes Backpacks So Heavy?

The most logical answer: books. Math books, history books, science books— they are typically hardcover and can weigh up to five pounds for thick volumes. 

Add to these potentially heavy textbooks, lunch boxes, notebooks, folders, pencil holders, phones and homework at you see a clear pattern. Studies show that some kids carry backpacks that weigh 15 percent of their body weight. Packs carried improperly can cause just as much damage even if they are not that heavy. 

How To Lighten the Load

The first thing parents should do after a child finishes packing for school is pick up the backpack. If you struggle to lift it you already know it’s too heavy.

Watch as your child puts on the pack. If they strain or grunt, it indicates they are struggling to seat it, which also means it’s too heavy. If the child’s posture changes when the backpack is in place, the weight is having an effect. 

Look for more subtle signs for backpack trouble such as:

  • Red marks on the shoulders or arms
  • Complaints of pins and needles in the fingers 
  • Complaints of back, neck or shoulder pain
  • Chronic headaches
  • Problems with the jaw like TMJ

Once you spot the symptoms, you can look for solutions.  

Tips to Avoid a Heavy Backpack

Start at the local sports store. Let the store clerk help you make your backpack choice. They know how to properly fit the pack and to explain the right way to wear it. Pick up the pack in the store to get a feel of how heavy it is empty, too. 

Avoid one size fits all products and oversized bags. In fact, smaller is better even if it means your child must pack less or carry a small tote for lunch or small supplies along with wearing the pack. Look for a backpack that can roll on the ground to avoid straining the back if your child has to carry a lot.

Help young children organize their backpacks every day both before and after school. This will eliminate garbage and unnecessary things that are adding to the weight. Pack heavy books close to the spine for them to help balance the weight of the pack. 

Kids and heavy backpacks don’t mix! If your child is complaining of chronic pain in the back or neck, get a proper diagnosis, too. The doctor can evaluate spinal health and determine if a heavy backpack is too blame. Contact BackFit Health +Spine today to make an appointment.  

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