A backpack has always been a schooler’s main accessory. They come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. Not much thought is given to the backpack -- until it becomes a source of back pain. Yes, that cute knapsack can be a source of spine problems for your child.
Researches have been clear about the effects of wearing heavy backpacks. This particular study cited that about 92 percent of children in the United States carry backpacks that are typically loaded with 10 percent to 22 percent body weight.
Over 37 percent of children aged 11 to 14 years report back pain, the majority of whom attribute their pain to wearing a school backpack.
It also said that a previous study showed that children who carry 10 percent, 20 percent, and 30 percent body weight loads experience high contact pressures under backpack straps as well as signiﬁcant pain.
What happens to the back?
Imagine this: The spine is made of 33 bones called the vertebrae. Sandwiched between the vertebrae are discs that act as natural shock absorbers. Now when there’s a mispositioned heavy weight on the shoulders, there is a high possibility that your child may bend forward at the hips or arch his or her back. This misalignment may cause the spine to compress unnaturally.
Take a good look the next time your child wears a backpack with heavy textbooks. It is natural for him or her to sometimes lean forward. When this goes on for years, the shoulders can become rounded and the upper back to become curved. And on top of the poor posture, your child has to deal with shoulder, neck, and back pain too.
There’s also the cool backpack position where only one pad is strung on the shoulder. Those who use a messenger bag are not exempted either. To offset the extra weight, your child might lean on to one side and that might lead to lower and upper back pain as well as shoulder and neck strains.
This ABC News story cited this recommendation from the Academy of Pediatrics: Children should never carry a backpack weighing more than 10 to 20 percent of their body weight.
Addressing the problem
Needless to say, there is a need to rethink how to use the backpack to avoid bad posture as well as body pains. Here are some ways how not to overload your child’s rucksack.
- Choose a bag with the right features -- Look for a size-appropriate cushioned backpack that is made with a lightweight material. The shoulder straps have to be padded and at least two-inches wide. You can check if the bag comes with a hip strap, waist belt, or frame to redistribute the weight of the backpack. Built-in wheels will give your child the option to pull and not carry the backpack. Lastly, if your child has a heavy gadget, consider buying a separate bag for it.
- Always ask your child if he or she feels any pain -- It always pays to communicate with your child to foster a positive relationship. The next time you exchange some chit-chat over lunch or dinner, you can ask if your child feels any back pain and then talk over some topics like:
- Bringing only what is necessary -- Tell your child to only bring the needed supplies every day. If your child is too young, you can coordinate with his or her teacher regarding the daily schedule. This way, your child won’t be overwhelmed with the backpack’s weight.
- How to wear a backpack -- This seems like commonsense but you can always give a reminder on how to properly use a bag: Both pads on the shoulders and if there’s any discomfort, unload books or things.
- How to organize the bag -- You can teach your child to fill compartments so that the load is equally distributed throughout the bag.
- Rent a locker -- You can coach your child to leave things in the locker or to make frequent trips instead of hauling all textbooks in one go. This is also a good way to incorporate some fitness in his or her day since studies show that students spend so much time sitting.
Keep your child healthy
Being a proactive parent will go a long way to keep your child in great shape. This is important more than ever now that the shadow of COVID-19 looms in the classrooms.