back pain

backpacks on students

The start of a new school year raises concern in some parents when it comes to their child’s backpack. Heavy text books, sports equipment, and other items are hauled to and from school every day, causing strain on your child’s neck, back, and shoulders that could be lessened with a few simple steps.

What problems do backpacks cause?

The heavier the backpack, the more damage it can potentially cause on the back, neck, and shoulders. Heavy backpacks cause the child to lean forward to help support the weight of the backpack, causing rounding of the shoulders and upper back. This increases the chance of falls and strains the back and neck muscles, potentially causing nerve damage in the neck.

Some students prefer to use an over the shoulder strap backpack. These backpacks cause the body to lean more to one side, stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back on one side, and can cause neck pain. If the students backpack is too heavy this can also result in the leaning back motion and could result in stress fractures in the long run.
The combination of a heavy load and small shoulder straps can result in nerve damage in the neck and shoulders and can lead to headaches.

How to prevent these problems?

Most physicians recommend that backpacks weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. This means that if a child weights 100 pounds, they shouldn’t be carrying more than 10 pounds of books and other school supplies on their back.

Some simple tips can be used to help reduce the risk of back, neck, and shoulder complications for students. Buying a backpack with two padded straps instead of one strap is important for helping prevent shoulder and neck pain. Padded backing can also allow for more support in a backpack. Placing large heavy books to the back of the backpack closer to the back and utilizing all compartments will help evenly distribute the weight of the backpack. Another spec to look for when purchasing a backpack is for a waist belt. Using a waist belt can help distribute weight in the hips and allows for more back support.

The placement of the backpack on the back is also important. The straps should be lose enough to not cause indentions or redness on the shoulders but tight enough so that the backpacks height is about 2 inches below the shoulders and sits at waist level. The backpack should never hang lower than the waist line.

Can the problems be corrected?

Changing a child’s backpack wearing habits early on will help reduce back, neck, and shoulder pain early on and eliminate risk of injury or weakness in the long run. Encourage your student to use their desks and lockers to store books as frequently as possible instead of hauling around all their books, athletic gear, and more throughout the entirety of the day.

Our specialists at Hampton Roads Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine are here to help keep your students healthy all year round.  Contact us for an appointment!