Time for School Doesn’t Have to Mean Time for Neck and Back Pain

When more than half the backpack is below the waist, Dr. Vitale said, it creates an unnatural force on the lower back. Additionally, when the backpack is around one shoulder, all that weight is really on a small set of muscles just on one side.

“This is really a set up for back pain,” he said.

Dr. Vitale says the safest way to wear a backpack is up high and close to the body using both shoulder straps. It’s good advice for kids like Joseph who needs all the support they can get on his daily hike to class.

Here’s a CBS video that explains the problems and some solutions:

Some tips to choose the right backpack for your child:

  • Pick the right size. A small kid should have a small bag made specifically for little kids, such as the one by Lands End for children 4 to 7 years old. It has straps that can be adjusted from small to extra large.
  • Make sure the backpack fits the child snugly and that it is worn high. A waist strap also helps with support.
  • Look for sturdy straps and make sure the child uses both straps, which should be wide and padded.
  • Children should carry no more than 10 percent of their body weight in the backpack

It’s a good idea to consider a wheeled bag, but some but some schools say they are a tripping hazard. If you can use a wheeled backpack, make sure not to overload it because children have to lift it to get in and out of cars and the bus.

Back and Neck Pain in Children

Back and neck pain are common health complaints among children and adolescents. According to a 2002 study, 8 percent of girls and 7 percent of boys (both age 14) experience low back pain, and neck and shoulder pain affects 24 percent of girls and 12 percent of boys 14 years of age 2. This same study also notes that low back and neck pain is becoming increasingly common in children and adolescents, which suggests an increase in degenerative musculoskeletal conditions in future adults.

Another published study notes that the prevalence of low back pain increases sharply in the early teen years and that by the age of 18 (girls) and 20 (boys) over 50 percent experience at least one bout of low back pain.3 The author of this study states that an examination of the causes and prevention of low back pain should focus on childhood and adolescence. There is a clear role for chiropractic in reducing or preventing back and neck pain in children and teens through targeted treatment approaches and education about the importance of posture and other musculoskeletal health topics.

If your child is experiencing similar pain, take preemptive steps and follow the directions her.  If not, follow them anyway.  You’ll be glad you did.

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