Beware of the Backpack!

When we send our kiddos off to school we think of things like did they get enough sleep, are they well-fed, are they warm enough, are they prepared for class? These are basic things we want to ensure happen daily so our children function at an optimum level and stay healthy, right? We  have all had that experience in the morning when our kids are crabby from lack of sleep. Then we tossed some over-sugared cereal at them with absolutely no protein to fuel them and ran out the door and left their sweater on the couch.

Okay, so now you’ve dropped them off, and you sigh a little relief that you made it, but that common sense factor kicks in telling us that we probably did not set them up well for the day. Well, much how things like sleep, diet, and comfort effect how our children function at school during the day, there is more you should be paying attention to!

Beware of the backpack! An increasingly high number of children are reporting neck pain, shoulder pain, and low back pain due to a combination of things. First, many kids carry their backpacks incorrectly. Particularly older children, carry their backpack on one shoulder, or just use a bag that is meant to only go on one shoulder. This uneven distribution of weight puts increased unnecessary strain on their back, neck and shoulders. Having all been kids ourselves, I think we know how important it is for kids to “feel cool”; however, we really need to stress to our children the harm they are doing to their bodies by carrying their book bags like this!

Now for Mom and Dad. We have something to do with the dangers of backpacks too! How does your child’s backpack look when it’s on their back(assuming they are wearing it correctly with both shoulder straps)? Does it hang below the small of their back? Are the straps narrow and digging into their shoulders? When you buy a backpack for your child it’s important the bag not fall below the small of their back, otherwise, the bag will force their back to arch and they will end up leaning forward when walking to compensate. This also causes unnecessary strain on the back, neck and shoulders. As far as the shoulder straps,you should make sure that they are wide and padded, as not to dig into your child’s shoulders. Little things we may not think of now, but if you recollect walking all day with your backpack, I bet you remember red marks from your bag digging into your shoulders. Ouch!

What else do you remember about your backpack? I remember in ninth grade weighing  my one shoulder strap book bag and it weighing in at 42 pounds! Um, probably not good. Actually, definitely not good! A child’s backpack should not weigh more than 10% of their body weight. Therefore, a 50 pound child’s bag should not exceed 5 pounds. Hmm, I guess my teachers missed that memo. If your daughter or son’s backpack weighs more than 10% of their body weight you should ask their teachers if there are certain books or supplies that could be left at school.

Well there you go. Now your morning checklist for kiddos is good breakfast, warm enough clothing, school supplies, and a PROPER fitting backpack. Feel free to share this article with fellow parents so they know to Beware of the Backpack!

By Mattingly Chiropractic, July 16, 2013