Back to school! The time of the year filled with post summer reunions, apples on teachers’ desks, fresh school supplies, ABC’s, and 123’s. With all this excitement, you may miss another, sneakier element of the back to school season that could potentially pose a threat to your children’s health: the overstuffed backpack.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 14,000 children are treated for back related injuries every year! Back, knee, neck, and shoulder strains are all potential side effects of needing to adjust posture to support the weight of a heavy backpack. More serious, potentially long-term side effects include reduced breathing capacity, recurring back pain and muscle spasms, headaches due to recurring strain, and even scoliosis. Ideally, the weight of your child’s backpack should not exceed 10-15% of their body weight. However, often that just doesn’t seem plausible.

Whether your child(ren)’s teachers have been a little overzealous in their homework assigning or not, there are a few things you can do to help decrease the risk of encountering a backpack related injury:

  • Know the warning signs of a dangerously weighty backpack. Watch your child as they pick up their bag. Are they grunting or heaving to toss it over their shoulder? What about leaning forward at the waist or hunching their shoulders? If so, there is a good chance the bag is too heavy.
  • Instruct your child(ren) on how to properly pick up and put on their backpack. When putting it on, bend the knees, lift the bag with both hands, and gently slip it on one shoulder at a time. Never sling it or throw its weight around.
  • Show your child how to properly pack their bag. Instruct your child on how to evenly distribute the weight of their books so that each area of their back is bearing the same amount of weight. Place heavier text books closer to the back (the area closest to your child(ren)’s back) and distribute smaller items evenly throughout the remaining available pouches.
  • Choose the right backpack. Select a sturdy bag with thick and padded straps. Thin straps have the tendency to dig into the shoulders and armpit area, cutting into nerves and decreasing circulation. And make sure the bag has two straps! Single strap bags pull the body to one side, putting stress on the ribs, middle back, and lower back and unnaturally compressing the spine.
  • Make sure the straps are the correct length. The bag should not sit lower than the hollow of the lower back. It should also sit close to the back with little to no gap between the backside of the pack and your child’s back.
  • Opt for digital books whenever possible and practical. Less physical paper, less weight. Pretty simple.
  • Regularly have your child(ren)’s posture checked. Whether it be a chiropractor, make sure you have a trained professional keep an eye out for any defects in the alignment of the spine. In staying vigilant, you will be more likely to catch any serious misalignments or deformities (including scoliosis) before they cause serious long-term damage.

If your child is experiencing back pain or you are concerned about their posture and spine, give us a call to schedule an appointment. Our chiropractor will assess their condition and prescribe a plan to help alleviate any pain and/or heal any damage.

Some elements of treatment may include:

  • Pilates, Gyro, or Yoga. Gentle exercise strengthens the muscles responsible for lugging that heavy backpack around without causing further stress.
  • Working into the muscles will loosen them up and help prevent a build-up of tension, leading to strain and injury.
  • Chiropractic Adjustments. Realigning the spine will help alleviate pain and encourage proper posture.

Now, with all of that in mind, we wish your children an awesome, productive school year full of friendship, learning, and growth. And, parents, enjoy a moment of silence. You survived summer. You deserve it.