Backpacks and Children

Backpacks can be a leading cause of back and shoulder pain for millions of children.  The American Spine Foundation and the Minnesota Chiropractic Association published a report on backpack safety.  Here are their tips to preventing unnecessary wear and tear on a child’s growing spine.

  • Backpacks should have two wide, padded shoulder straps.
  • Also look for a backpack with a padded back, as it helps cushion and distribute the weight.
  • Wear both shoulder straps evenly to properly distribute backpack weight. Lugging a heavy pack by one strap can cause disproportionate stress on certain parts of the spine.
  • The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso.  It should never hang more than four inches below the waistline, as it will cause the child to lean forward when walking.
  • Backpacks with several compartments are best.  Try to place the heaviest objects closest to your child’s body.
  • A child should never carry more than 10% of their body weight.  For example, a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t carry a back pack heavier than 10 pounds. The extra weight can also pull on the neck muscles, resulting in headaches and neck pain.

A simple way to know if the backpack is too heavy is if your child is struggling to put the backpack on! Also, a sign that the bag is too heavy is if they are no longer walking upright, but instead lean their torso forward to attempt to counterbalance the load.  Remember to clean out the backpack often as clutter leads to unnecessary weight. Try to have them minimize what they are bringing to and from school.

Unfortunately carrying a heavy backpack can cause serious problems to a child’s spine after time. Typically children will complain of shoulder and neck pain. Chiropractic is great for helping kids with upper body aches caused from heavy backpacks. Gentle adjustments of the neck and upper back can greatly reduce tension in that area. Our doctors here at Watkins Family Chiropractic have worked with many children with similar problems. If you are in the Savage, Burnsville, or Prior Lake area, stop by our clinic!