Sunday, September 20, 2015

Backpack Misuse Leads to Chronic Back Pain in Children, Say Chiropractors

Parents who do their best to prepare their sons and daughters for the new school year may be overlooking one important thing—the weight of their children’s backpacks.

In 2013 alone, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission cited 5,415 backpack-related injuries treated at emergency rooms. In light of statistics like these, doctors of chiropractic (DCs) point to the dangers of heavy backpacks, noting injuries ranging from acute back pain to chronic back pain to other types of damage.

“Every year I see more kids with spinal abnormalities due to
Dr. Joseph Coler, DC, of Coler Chiropractic
carrying heavy backpacks,” said Dr. Joseph Coler, an award-winning chiropractor and co-owner of Coler Chiropractic, 6657 W. Archer. “These include uneven shoulder heights, pelvic unlevelling (uneven hips) and pain and muscle spasms in the upper and lower back.”

Dr. Coler suggests that parents prevent such health problems by using rolling backpacks and wearing backpacks on both shoulders.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, parents should limit the backpack’s weight to no more than 5 to 10 percent of the child's body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.

ACA offers the following backpack safety checklist for parents:

** Is the backpack the correct size for your child?

The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso, and the pack should not hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.

** Does the backpack have two wide, padded shoulder straps?

Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child's shoulders.

** Does your child use both straps?

Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.

Are the shoulder straps adjustable?

The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.

** Does the backpack have a padded back?

A padded back not only provides increased comfort, but also protects your child from being poked by sharp edges on school supplies (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.

** Does the pack have several compartments?

A backpack with individualized compartments helps position the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child's back.

** Are all those materials really necessary?

If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child's teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books and electronic items, such as iPads and laptop computers at school, and bring home only lighter, handout materials.

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