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Burdensome Backpacks -Article

Burdensome Backpacks: Too Heavy to Bear?

By Janean Nusz

Is your child’s backpack too heavy? Is toting school supplies and books going to cause your child problems, both now and in the future? Before you let your child load up that backpack again, take a look at a few of the recommended guidelines below. It may just save your child from a future of chronic back pain!
• A child’s backpack should weigh no more than 5-10 percent of his or her body weight. Any heavier, and the child will attempt to compensate for the extra burden by bending forward. The heavier the load, the more need there is to compensate. This ‘forward lean’ can cause severe lower back pain.
• Backpacks with individual compartments are best. When positioning the load in the backpack, compartments help to even out the weight distribution inside the pack. Compartments also prevent objects from shifting around.
• Always recommend that your child use both shoulder straps when carrying the backpack. Wearing the backpack slung over one shoulder increases the risk of experiencing neck and muscle spasms and backaches. When both straps are used, the weight is distributed evenly across the back, hips and shoulders, reducing the risk of injury and back pain.
• Make sure that pointed or sharp objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back.
• Pack the heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
• Purchase a backpack with wide padded shoulder straps and a waist belt – and instruct your child to use the waist belt.
• Always adjust shoulder straps so that the backpack is resting snug against your child’s back. Position the backpack so the load rides mainly on the hips or pelvic area. Straps fitted too loosely can cause the load to dangle and shift, and may cause spinal injuries or problems later in life.
• If possible, purchase a backpack on wheels. Or have your child tote their pack to and from school on a luggage carrier.
• For children already experiencing back problems, parents should ask the school to issue a second set of books, which can be kept at home.
Across the nation, instances of backpack related injury and chronic back pain in children have increased. Are today’s children carrying more than their share? It would seem so. This is due, in part, to the increased bulk of today’s textbooks, but can also be attributed to the need to cart around musical instruments, sports equipment, notebook computers, and a multitude of other items needed in today’s schools.
In addition to triggering chronic back pain and spinal injury, backpacks are also known to cause ‘rucksack palsy’. This disorder results from heavy packs putting pressure on nerves in the shoulder and neck area. Symptoms include numbness in the hands, muscle wasting, and - in severe cases - nerve damage.
To reduce the risk of pain and injury to your child, follow the guidelines mentioned above. And remember, exercise can also play a part in decreasing your child’s risk. Children who are active also have a better chance of avoiding back pain caused by carrying backpacks. Healthy activities such as walking and riding a bicycle condition young muscles, making injury and soreness less of a possibility.

Preveiously published online at Family Resouces (FamilyResources.com)