With school just around the corner, parents are busy purchasing the supplies their children will need for the year.
A backpack is one of the items on the top of the list, and one local pediatrician is reminding parents to purchase the right one for their child.
There may be a correlation between students wearing heavy backpacks to bad posture and other spinal issues, Cleburne Pediatrician Ranbir Sharma said.
“Many of the backpacks are quite heavy,” Sharma said. “Some schools have policies where they don’t have lockers. That does put a lot of strain on their back.”
If a student wears a heavy backpack all day, he said is may cause back and muscle strain in the upper and lower back, which may lead to having to come to the doctor or other medical professionals.
Most of the children he sees who complain of back issues are athletes due to them straining themselves while lifting weights, but sometimes he does see students who complain of back issues due to wearing a heavy backpack.
“If you have lockers available, try to use it and put only things you need into your backpack,” he said. “Sometimes students complain they don’t have time to go to their locker. If so, equalize the weight of your backpack by putting some in it and some things in your hand. Maybe you don’t need everything in your backpack. Can you leave it at home? When you don’t need it, take it off right away and don’t leave it on your back.”
Verywell Health, a website that provides health and wellness information from health professionals, gives the following tips parents can follow to ensure their child has the backpack that’s right for them:
• Observe your child’s spine: Heavy packs may cause children to change their spinal position to accommodate the load, which may result in back pain and in worse scenarios the possibility of temporarily compressed discs and posture problems. Studies show that backpack wearers tend to begin adapting their posture once the weight reaches about 26 pounds.
• Lessen the load in the backpack: Most children carry between 10 to 22 percent of their body weight in their backpacks. A 2017 study published in the journal, “Applied Ergonomics,” confirmed that a child should carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.
• Carry only what is necessary: Help your child manage the amount of heavy items they carry in their backpack. Encourage them to stop at their locker and switch books out frequently.
• Organize the backpack properly: When you carry anything out away from your body, it takes more effort and places stress on your joints and muscles. Put the heaviest items on the inside of the backpack and close to your back; carry little things like calculators, pens and loose paper toward the outside.
• Get a backpack with padded shoulder straps: If your child complains of neck/shoulder pain when carrying a backpack, find one with padded straps, which are generally wider than the more basic type and may help even out the distribution of its weight.
• Use both straps when wearing a backpack: Whether it’s fashion or convenience that propels your child to sling their backpack over one shoulder, such a practice can contribute to the development of poor posture habits. It can also cause one-sided pain.
• Center the backpack load: Studies show that loads of 18 pounds or more may create a temporary side-to-side curve in the spine. You can help your child by placing items so there is equal weight on either side of the pack.
• Tighten the straps of the backpack: Loose straps may lead to a shifting of the pack’s contents when you move, which may cause muscles to work harder than necessary. By cinching the straps to fit your frame, you can secure it and its contents.
• Wear a waist belt: Waist belts take a portion of the load off their shoulders. By supporting some of the weight lower down where the mechanical advantage is better, you may decrease neck and back pain above the waist.
• Ask your child if they have back pain: Most of the time the pain will come from the backpack, but there is a chance the pain is a symptom of an underlying condition or disease. Back pain during childhood increases the risk for back pain during adulthood.