In the US, more than 40 million students carry backpacks. About 20 million carry in those packs more than the recommended weight. This backpack “overload” sent over 3,000 children, ages 5-14, to hospital emergency rooms in 2007 for injuries related to backpacks.
These numbers are expected to rise year after year. Children and teens continue to rely on backpacks to carry books, binders, notepads, homework and personal belongings.
Children and Back Pain
Each year I see more and more children complaining of headaches, neck, back and shoulder pain. Studies have shown a direct connection between these complaints and overloaded and ill-fitted backpacks. The body has to compensate for the change in its center of gravity caused by the backpack’s added weight. The spine in particular is affected as it twists and bends to reposition.
Even thought there is debate over the causes of Scoliosis, one common agreement is that it can be caused from consistently overloading a spine, especially if it is overloaded in an uneven pattern, which commonly happens with children wearing backpacks. Once Scoliosis occurs in a child it can be very difficult to deal with and correct.
The smartest way to handle Scoliosis is to prevent it. Do no carry too much weight for long periods of time or any uneven weight and have regular spinal checkups by your family Chiropractor to ensure proper spinal function. This is especially important for developing children because as the spine grows it can be easily manipulated in the wrong directions, backpacks, poor posture and certain lifestyle habits can distort the spine.
Another problem associated with backpack overload is a condition called “Rucksack Palsy.” A heavy backpack causes the shoulder straps to compress delicate nerves, arteries and veins that pass underneath. This can lead to numbness and tingling in the arms.
Help Is on the Way
The American Chiropractic Association has developed a Backpack Safety Program for children in an effort to raise the awareness to the health dangers overloaded backpacks can present to children.
Protecting your child’s spine is extremely important, especially during adolescence. I feel strongly about backpack safety and volunteer to go into schools and individually teach the students and teachers about the health effects of over weighted and ill-fitted backpacks.