Backpack Health

The earliest sign of fall is upon us – it’s Back-to-School time!  While we all prepare to return to the classroom in different ways, most of us will find a way to not have to carry a myriad of books and binders in our arms. Backpack-wearers beware: that beautiful backpack you bought the other day may end up costing you a lot more than the price you already paid!

In a new and disturbing trend, young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).   While the ACA believes in limiting the backpack’s weight to no more than 10 percent of a child’s body weight, most students carry a much larger weight percentage – and often incorrectly wear it over just one shoulder.  Lessening the weight, urging the use of ergonomically correct backpacks, and properly teaching people how to wear them are possible solutions.

What Can You Do?
ACA offers the following tips to help prevent the needless pain that backpack misuse could cause the students in your household.

  • Make sure the backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of the student’s weight. A heavier backpack will cause the student to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.
  • The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing the student to lean forward when walking.
  • A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on the student’s back.
  • Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more the student will carry – and the heavier the backpack will be.
  • Urge the student to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
  • Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into the shoulders.
  • The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to the student’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
  • If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to the teacher. Ask if the student could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.
  • Although the use of rollerpacks – or backpacks on wheels – has become popular in recent years, ACA is now recommending that they be used cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack. Some school districts have begun banning the use of rollerpacks because they clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous trips and falls.

If you or your student experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, consider visiting our doctors of chiropractic (DC’s). DC’s are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In addition, DC’s can also prescribe exercises designed to help everyone develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.

For more information on prevention and wellness, call us to schedule an appointment at 703-578-1900!

Keeping your health in motion,
Dr. Steven Trauben & Dr. Jeff Borenstein


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