Maybe your child was excited to start school, their mood was uplifted and the first few weeks were nothing but smiles. Then (dum dum dum dummmm) his/her mood decreased, they became cranky and complain daily about their necks or backs and the heaviness of their backpacks. Take a few minutes and learn here how to make sure your child’s backpack is making the grade. Children have ENOUGH stress at school nowadays without their backpack adding to it.

Chiropractors, pediatricians and orthopedic surgeons can agree on one thing: Backpacks are a problem for your childs spine. Over 1/3 of students carry over 30% of their body weight at least once per week in their backpacks yet the max load is not recommended to exceed 15%.

Why is this so bad?
There a few factors that play into the heaviness of backpacks and the harmful injuries that can be caused….lets dive in.
1. Its not “cool” to wear your backpack with two straps mom/dad (duh). Its way cooler to wear it with one strap, and don’t for a minute think we’re going to be caught dead wearing the stomach strap! Being “cool” is definitely a factor as popularity is already a stressor at school
2. School books are REQUIRED to be carried to and from school daily. These books are HUGE! Thankfully, some schools have started allowing two copies of books, one for home and one for school. Not all schools are able to provide this luxury however and a result by the end of their teen years, 60% of youth experience low back pain.
3. Improper loading can cause stress to a growing spine! It causes improper alignment and subluxation. It interferes with proper structure and growth as well as nervous system function and can cause muscle and soft tissue sprain/strain. Improper loading can also lead to falls rib and flank pain, increased natural spinal arches, fatigue and spinal compensation patterns.
4. Size and design are also a factor. A backpack is a big statement at school so your child wants the one that fits their personality…but does it fit them? Improper size and comfortable or padded shoulder straps can really change the dynamics of the distribution of weight on their body. If the backpack isn’t a good fit your child can experience neck and back pain and headaches.

Ok, now we know but is this really THAT important?
YES! Your child’s backpack is estimated to weigh an average of 12 lbs. They pick up and transfer this load approximately 10 times a day and school is 180 days a year. Do the math! This equates to over 11 TONS lifted throughout the school year…thats 6 full sized cars! Ouch!

How do we fix the problem?
1. Proper Loading: 78% of students who load and wear backpacks properly report less back, neck and shoulder pain so lets make sure we’re loading correctly. Place the heaviest items closest to the back and wear them over the strongest mid back muscles. Don’t let it hang more that 4″ below the waistline.
2. Proper Lifting: As we just went over, your child’s backpack is lifted way too many time to count per year. Have your child face the backpack before they lift it, bend at the knees, put it on one shoulder at a time and use BOTH straps. This will help them to evenly distribute the weight and decrease stress on the body
3. Regular Chiropractic Adjustments: YES for your kids. It is important for you as a parent to understand all of the stresses life has on children and their growing spines. Along with regular adjustments your Chiropractor and provide tips and tricks like the ones listed above, muscular reeducation, stretching instruction for your child. Its important for them to have healthy spines NOW as children to mold them for the pain-free adults you want them to be!

Dr Caitlin
Dr. Caitlin Pietrosanto is a graduate of D'Youville College of Buffalo NY. There she obtained her Doctorate of Chiropractic and Bachelor Degree in Biology. She has completed extensive post-graduate training in Spidertech Taping, Graston technique and is a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic in The State of New York. Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health. Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints such as back pain, neck pain, pain in the extremities ,and headaches. When other medical conditions exist, chiropractic care may complement or support medical treatment by relieving the musculoskeletal aspects associated with the condition using physiotherapy techniques. These techniques are focused on restoring the structure and function of affected muscle and tissue.

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