Do you know what some of the main causes of chronic back pain are? Pregnancy, obesity, heavy lifting … and kids wearing backpacks.
Yes, carrying books to school in a heavily weighted backpack is a health threat for your kid’s spine. At Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center, Jocelyn R. Idema, DO, and our team want to keep your children’s backs healthy, strong, and pain-free.
Here’s how to avoid back pain with backpacks.
Signs of backpack trouble
If your child complains of back or neck pain, the backpack might be the first place to look. Backpacks that are too heavy may throw the spine’s natural curves out of alignment and strain your child’s back, neck, and shoulder muscles.
Signs of backpack or back trouble include:
- Rounded shoulders
- Leaning forward with the backpack on
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Muscle spasms
If your child is putting unnecessary strain on their spine because of a too-heavy pack or poor positioning, it could translate into serious back issues in the future, including slipped discs.
Find the right backpack
One way or another, your kid has to tote their books to school and from class to class. If the most convenient way to do that is a backpack, then look for these features to minimize the risks:
- Light materials (i.e., nylon or canvas, not leather)
- Padded arm straps at least 2 inches wide
- A hip strap that distributes weight
- Individualized pockets for easy access
If possible, get a backpack with wheels. Then, between staircases and other obstacles, your child can simply pull their books, like luggage at the airport. A wheeled backpack is especially important if they carry heavy equipment, such as laptops or tablets.
Teach your kids how to use backpacks
Slinging your backpack on your back with one arm strap might be easy and look cool, but it’s setting your kid up for a backache or strained shoulder or neck. Encourage them to always use both arm straps and the hip belt, too.
Pack heaviest items at the bottom of the back so their weight is distributed to the lower back rather than mid-back or neck. Make sure sharp or oddly shaped items don’t dig into your child’s back. Put a soft, smoother object in front of the bulky things or, if they’re small enough, put them in a side pocket.
Don’t let your kid just lean over at the waist to grab the backpack and sling it on. That places pressure on the spine and back muscles. Instead, they should treat the backpack like any heavy load and lift it by squatting slightly and using the thigh muscles to take the weight of the pack.
The top of the backpack should rest no higher than the base of your skull. The bottom shouldn’t hang lower than 2 inches above their waist. Don’t let your child droop the backpack down to their buttocks.
The backpack should fit snugly. Loose backpacks drag your child’s weight backward. If they lean forward while walking, take some items out of the pack and have your kid carry them instead, because the pack is too heavy.
If your child has back or neck pain, don’t delay getting it checked out. With simple lifestyle adjustments and recommendations, we may be able to save your child a lifetime of back pain or neck pain.
Call our office in McKees Rocks, Pittsburgh, or Washington, Pennsylvania, today. You can also use our handy online system to request an appointment.