Bad Posture and Backpacks

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons conducted a survey of which 58% of the responding orthopedist reported seeing pediatric patients with back pain or shoulder pain caused by lifting or carrying heavy backpacks.

Even the best pack is useless if your child doesn’t use the pack correctly.  It is important to stress from an early age the need to wear and lift backpacks properly.

Lighten Up Your Backpack!

Teach your children to follow the following guidelines:

Guidelines for backpack use from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

–          Don’t let your backpack’s weight exceed 20% of your body weight (LESS FOR CHILD GENERAL RULE 15%) ***

–          Use a hip strap for heavier weights

–          Use a backpack with wide, padded straps and a padded back

–          Use both of the backpack’s straps, firmly tightened, to hold pack two inches above your waist.

–          Engage in exercises to condition you back muscles.

–          Use correct lifting techniques: Bend with both legs when picking up a back pack, lift with your legs

–          Place the heaviest items closest to your back

–          Pack you pack neatly and try to keep items in place

–          Try to make frequent trips to your locker, between classes, to replace books.

–          Consider purchasing a backpack with wheels.

–          Purchase a second set of books for home.

***If a child is overweight, % of weight will need to be decreased accordingly

Source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Orthopedics Update Press Conference: October 1999.

Although some back pain in school aged students can be attributed to heavy packs, it is not the only cause.  Poor posture while sitting in class, watching TV, driving, or playing video games can result in muscle imbalances, ligament weakness, and pain.  It is important to get your children off the couch, outside of the house, and active.  Remember that minor aches and pains can be considered normal for active school aged children but back pain that is severe, constant, long lasting, present only at night, or the result of trauma can be a sign of injury or illness and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

So, should we hold kids back from being kids?  Absolutely not!  Playing and exercising is part of growing up and is crucial to physical development. Running, climbing, grasping, bending, skipping, stretching, throwing, and tumbling are all ways for the anatomy to strengthen skeletal musculature function.  But, excessive incorrect stress will surely lead to an unhealthy adult body.

The size of the backpack should NOT be greater than the back of the child. Ugh!  You’ve got to shop around.