Backpack pain is an all too common condition of school-age children. While back pain is a known and widely-studied issue in adults, its prevalence in school-aged children has received relatively little scientific attention. Elementary, middle, and high school students must often carry backpacks that weigh enough to trigger chronic back pain, bad posture, and even decreased lung volume. I have written about this issue earlier, but lately, several studies reveal the truths behind childhood back pain and ways to mitigate it.
Are Backpacks Too Heavy For Kids?
Recent research supports that children carrying backpack loads of over ten percent of their body weight have a greater chance of creating back pain and related difficulties. An global study found that an alarmingly large percentage of school-age kids in Australia, France, Italy, and the United States often carried backpacks weighing more than the ten percent threshold.
In a second study involving a sample of 1540 metropolitan school-aged children, more than a third of the children surveyed reported backpack pain. Along with carrying heavy backpacks, female students and those diagnosed with scoliosis had a larger association with back pain pain. Children with access to lockers reported less pain.
The number of straps on the back had little effect on the respondent’s replies. Children also reported restricted physical activity due to back pain, and some took drugs to alleviate the pain.
Girls who transported bags in addition to wearing a backpack reported considerably greater back pain. Adolescents with back pain spent more time watching television than their peers. More than 80 percent of the surveyed thought that carrying a heavy backpack due to their back pain.
Backpack Pain Solutions
The research revealed several things that might help reduce back pain in school-aged children. The best way to prevent back pain is to refrain from carrying heavy loads.
Kids ought to make the most of locker breaks and only carry items necessary for a couple of courses at one time. When lifting a back pack, children should crouch down and bend their knees rather than curve the spine.
Appropriate Backpack Carrying Techniques
While not conclusive, research also supports that carrying the weight otherwise, e.g., by hand rather than by back pack, may help stop or reduce back pain. The American Occupational Therapy Association and the American Chiropractic Association provide these additional safe backpack etiquette tips:
- Children should avoid carrying over 10 percent of the bodyweight in their backpack. For instance, an 8th-grader weighing 120 pounds should take no more than 12 lbs.
- Place the heaviest objects at the back of the pack.
- Make sure the items fit as snugly as possible to minimize back pain due to shifting weight.
- Adjust the shoulder straps so they fit snugly over your kid’s shoulders and the back pack doesn’t drag your child backward. The bottom of the pack ought to be less than four inches under your child’s waist.
- Children should avoid carrying backpacks slung over one shoulder, as it could cause spinal pain and general discomfort.
- Encourage your child to carry only necessary items in their own backpack. Extra items can be carried in hand.
- Look for backpacks with useful features like multiple compartments for even weight distribution, cushioned straps to protect the neck and shoulders, and waist belt.
- If your child’s school permits, think about a roller pack, which rolls on the floor like luggage.
- If problems persist, talk to your child’s teacher or principal about implementing paperback textbooks, lighter materials, or electronic versions.