Back to school backpacks: Protect your kids from back pain

By September 22, 2017Back Pain

With back to school in full swing, your kids are back to carrying their backpacks filled with books, items and learning materials. As many children and adolescents walk to and from school, parents should be aware that a heavy backpack can cause back pain and other strains.

Activa recommends 3 tips to help your children stay safe and avoid back problems this school year and onwards.

How Carrying Heavy Backpacks Affects Children

While a backpack is a practical way to carry schoolbooks and items distributing weight across your child’s back and shoulders, the risk of overload can strain their back, neck and shoulders.

As your child’s back compensates for weight carried over long periods of time, heavy backpacks pose several risks:

  • Distort natural curves in your child’s middle and lower back, causing muscle strain and discomfort to their spine joints and rib cage
  • Lead to rounding of your child’s shoulders
  • Cause your child to lean forward, reducing their balance and making it easy to fall

What’s more, the habit of carrying backpacks over one shoulder causes muscle strain to compensate for uneven weight. When your child’s spine leans to the opposite side it stresses their middle back, ribs and lower back more on one side. Muscle imbalance can cause muscle strain, muscle spasm and back pain in the short term with accelerated development of back problems later on if not corrected.

Your child’s heavy backpack can also pull on their neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain, neck pain and arm pain.

3 Tips for Safely Carrying Backpacks

1. Consider backpack design features that reduce back pain:

  • Lightweight material (canvas rather than leather)
  • Two padded, wide (2-inches) adjustable shoulder straps
  • Padded back and individualized compartments
  • Hip strap, waist belt or frame redistributes weight of backpack from shoulders and back to pelvis
  • Wheels allow backpack to be pulled rather than carried
  • Separate bag for your child’s laptop and heavy electronics

2. Teach your child how to properly load and wear their backpack to avoid back pain:

  • Always use both shoulder straps and wear backpack on the back rather than over one shoulder
  • Pack heaviest objects into backpack first so they are carried lower and closest to your child’s body
  • Fill compartments so that load is evenly distributed throughout the backpack and items do not shift while your child in walking
  • Adjust straps to fit backpack snugly to your child’s body, holding the bottom of backpack 2 inches above their waist and keeping the top just below the base of skull. Do not carry backpack low near the buttocks
  • Lift backpack by using leg muscles and keep it close to their body, not by bending over with arms extended

3. Watch weight carried in their backpack to reduce back pain:

  • If your child complains of discomfort, immediately reduce weight in their backpack
  • Teach your child to carry only books needed for the day in their backpack with frequent trips to their locker for needed items
  • Train your child to clean out their backpack once a week

Get Involved with Protecting Your Kids from Back Pain

  • Talk to teachers about minimizing the need for kids to carry heavy books back and forth in their backpacks. Keep one set of books in the classroom for daily work and leave heavy books at home. Photocopies of homework chapters and assignments are ideal for lighter transport
  • Attend PTA meetings and be aware of policies by school administrators for removing lockers or reducing time between classes, which makes it difficult for kids to carry heavy books throughout the school day
  • Consider alternatives to traditional backpacks: saddle bags, rollerbags, backpacks with inflatable lumbar support and straps, inflatable and moulded backpacks

Contact Activa if you have any questions about helping your child prevent back pain this school year.

Book your appointment today