6 Tips to Prevent Backpack Pain

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: December 7, 2015

backpack pain tips

Back pain can affect people of all ages, including kids. In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 5,400 children were treated in emergency rooms in 2013 from what the ER classified as “backpack-related injuries.”

It’s really not that surprising when you consider the logistics of the issue. Children are in a crucial stage of development where their bodies are continuing to grow, they sometimes carry heavy loads hauling books and binders to and from school, and backpacks might not be the fitted to their optimal size, especially if they received it as a hand-me-down from a sibling. Today, we take a closer look at how backpacks are creating back problems in kids, and how to prevent those injuries.

Backpack Pain

Wearing a backpack that’s too heavy or that doesn’t fit correctly can lead to a myriad of back problems, including:

  • Muscle soreness
  • Disc issues
  • Acute pain
  • General fatigue
  • Neck and shoulder problems
  • Posture or gait issues

When it comes to a backpack’s weight, experts don’t all agree on a maximum weight load. The American Physical Therapy Association suggests that a backpack’s weight shouldn’t exceed 15-20 percent of a child’s weight, while the American Chiropractic Association says it shouldn’t exceed 5-10 percent of a child’s weight. Splitting the difference and not exceeding 10-15 percent is probably best, but if you know your child is going to be carrying heavy loads, invest in a sturdy backpack.

Preventing Backpack Pain

Here are some tips to help keep your child from developing backpack-related back pain:

  • As we mentioned above, spring for a durable, sturdy and well-built backpack.
  • Make sure your child uses both shoulder straps to carry the backpack, not just one.
  • Pack heavy objects near the bottom of the backpack so it’s carried lower and closer to the body.
  • Adjust the straps so it fits snugly. The bottom of the backpack should be 2-3 inches above the waist.
  • Avoid backpacks with wheels. Your child may be hunched while wheeling, and they’ll have to lift and move it every time they go up steps or get on or off the bus.
  • Tell your child not to lean forward while carrying their backpack. This puts more strain on their back.

Lastly, keep an eye on your child when they get home from school. If they are walking differently, if they complain of pain or if they are hunched over when carrying their backpack, talk to them about the do’s and don’ts of carrying a backpack, and think about buying a backpack that better fits their frame. If back problems persist, contact a back specialist.

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