Is a heavy backpack weighing down your child?
In 2001 backpacks were the cause of 7,000 emergency room visits! In today’s school system, with heavy school books and overstuffed bags, many kids end up carrying over a quarter of their body weight on their backs (that’s equivalent to an 180 pound man carrying over 45 pounds on his back all day!). Backpack weight can cause muscle spasms, nerve and circulation problems, and severe neck and shoulder pain.
How does a backpack damage the spine? When a heavy weight, such as a backpack filled with books, is placed on the back, the weight’s force can pull a child backward. To compensate, a child may stoop forward at the hips or arch their back, which can cause the spine to compress unnaturally.
The many kids who wear their backpacks slung over just one shoulder (because of course, its the “cooler” way to wear a backpack) may end up trying to offset the extra weight by unintentionally leaning the other way. This can lead to the development of lower and upper back pain and strain on their shoulders and neck.
As well, backpacks with tight, thin straps that dig into the shoulders can interfere with circulation and nerves.
–Your child’s backpack should never weigh more than 10% of his or her body weight!
–The backpack should never hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases weight on the shoulders.
–Buy a backpack with multiple compartments. Multiple compartments can help to more evenly distribute the weight. Make sure that bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back, and try to place the heaviest items closest to the body.
–Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps! Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
–The shoulder straps should be wide and padded. Straps that are too thin and too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
–Talk to your child’s teacher. If the backpack is still too heavy, ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter handout materials or workbooks.
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