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It’s back-to-school-time – How to avoid back pain from backpacks

It’s back-to-school-time – How to avoid back pain from backpacks

Its back-to-school-time, which means new backpacks for our patients. Although backpacks are a staple amongst school aged children, they can also pose a serious health threat. Atlas Chiropractic wants to ensure that our patients in the Phoenix area know the best backpack products, weight guidelines and safety habits for a healthy, pain-free school year.

In a 2003 article published in Spine Journal, researchers revealed 74.4% of backpack users suffered from back pain. Why is this so important? Backpack safety is especially vital because research shows that “children who experience back pain are at a heightened risk of having back pain as adults. The economic impact may be significant, because back pain is a major cause of disability in adults.” (Clin Orthop Relat Res 2003; 409:78-84.)

Student’s spines are tested with multiple stresses, including backpack loads, long hours studying, sports and the emotional toll that comes with being a kid. Consistent chiropractic care is vital to a growing spine. Chiropractic focuses on the areas in the spine where movement is restricted or spinal bones, called vertebrae, are out of alignment. This condition, termed the vertebral subluxation, is pervasive among students of all ages. The subluxation is linked with various problems, which may interfere with academic performance and overall well-being. Regular chiropractic care keeps spines free of vertebral subluxations, enabling patients to function at their peak performance. As part of your back-to-school checklist, make sure to schedule your children for a chiropractic check up at Atlas Chiropractic.

As a staple to the Northwestern Phoenix communities’ health, Dr. Fred Schofield wishes a great start to the new school year with several tips on keeping your child safe and healthy this school year.

Backpack Safety Tips

Selecting a Backpack:

  1. Size of the backpack should be relative to the size of the child
    • The top of the backpack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder
    • The bottom of the backpack should not fall below the top of the hip bone
  2. Backpack itself should be as light as possible i.e. nylon or vinyl
  3. Shoulder straps should be at least 2 inches wide, adjustable and padded
    • Blood circulation in the neck and shoulders is essential for spinal health
  4. Back portion of the backpack should also be padded for protection and comfort
  5. The backpack should always include hip strap or waist belt
  6. This redistributes 50-70% of the backpack weight to the pelvis, which decreases the load on the upper back, neck and shoulder
  7. Backpack should have several individual pockets
  8. Several compartments make it easier to properly distribute weight

Packing a Back Pack:

  1. Total weight of backpack should never exceed 15% of person’s body weight.
    • Elementary aged children’s backpack should never exceed 10%
  2. Pack so contents weight is evenly distributed
  3. Heavier items should be packed closer to the body
  4. Only pack items needed for that day
  5. Load odd shaped items on the outside to prevent them from digging into child’s back

Carrying a Backpack:

  1. Utilize both shoulder straps
  2. Shoulder straps should fit snuggly to the body, but not too tight
  3. A parents hand should be able to slide between backpack and child’s back
  4. Always fasten the hip straps
  5. Backpack should be centered at the waist or hip level.
    • This allows the pelvis to carry the load, rather than the neck and shoulders
    • Scientists found that backpacks containing a mere 3% of the carrier’s body weight caused the same level of unsafe displacement as much heavier backpacks when positioned between the shoulder blades. So lengthen those straps! (BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2002; 3:10)
  6. Limit the amount backpack time

Dr. Fred Schofield is a Phoenix Chirorpactor of Atlas Chiropractic in Phoenix, serving North West Phoenix, North Phoenix & Glendale AZ.