Ah Back to School time! There aren’t many other times of the year like it. This is my second year as a parent of a back to schooler and I can tell you there is the same type of energy and excitement that I used to remember as a student. What backpack should I pick, who will be in my classes, what is my teacher going to be like? So many questions and so many unknowns.
I hate to add one more of those unknowns onto your plate but let me ask you a question, how much does your child’s backpack weigh? That’s a weird question, I know, but chiropractors are sort of weird, no? In all seriousness, did you know that your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 15% of his or her body weight? Have you lifted a text book recently to see how much one weighs? To make it worse, there are studies that show the backpack should weigh no more than 10% of their bodyweight. Truly, your 100lb child’s backpack, shouldn’t weigh more than 10 lbs.! Watching kids walk around schools over the past week or two, I can tell you that they are way over that threshold.
As a child, you should be worrying about what game you are going to play, not about your back hurting. Our skeletons, spines included, do not mature until around 25 years of age and the excessive weight of a heavy or ill-fitting backpack can create permanent changes to the spine. These are like the changes I saw firsthand at the Dallas VA Hospital, when veterans, many of whom enlisted at 18 (you know, before skeletal maturation occurs), had “backpacks” that were so heavy they created tiny fractures in the bones of the spines. Now I am not comparing going to school to being in the military, but I am comparing the effects of too heavy of a backpack on an immature spine.
What can we do to help our children? First, limit the weight of their backpacks. Only have essential books in the bag and make sure your child uses their locker if they have one. Second, ensure their backpack fits correctly. The bottom of the backpack should be approximately two inches above their waist and the pack should be no wider than their shoulders. The straps should be nice and wide, providing cushion on their shoulders. Third, make sure your child is wearing it correctly. Backpacks come with two straps for a reason. If your child only uses one strap, they are setting themselves up for muscle imbalances and potential issues down the road. It causes them to have to lean to compensate against the extra weight on one side. Also, if the backpack comes with a waist strap it’s a good idea to use it. Lastly, make sure you get your child’s spine checked by a chiropractor. At BMC, we love to help keep kids healthy and that includes making sure their spine is growing correctly. Removing interference from spine can help ensure that!
Call our office if you have any questions or if you would like Dr. Chris to make sure your child’s backpack fits correctly. 303-284-7724.
Neushwander, TB. et. al. The Effect of Backpacks on the Lumbar Spine in Children: A Standing Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study. SPINE (Philadelphia, PA 1976) 20120 (Jan 1); 35 (1): 83-88