Did you know that wearing a backpack wrong or choosing the wrong type of backpack can lead to lower back pain in children and teens? Studies over the years have started paying more attention to the proper use of backpacks in school, due to the frequency of increased low back pain being reported to doctors. Researchers estimate that 30 out of 100 children and teens will experience back pain, this can be a result of overstuffing backpacks or even just wearing them wrong for style. Here are some tips to avoid increased back pain in children by wearing the proper type of backpack as well as the correct use of the backpack.
1. Selecting the Correct Type of Backpack:
When buying a new backpack, it is important to look at the different types, styles, and sizes. Backpacks good for proper posture include 2-straps for the shoulders as well as added straps at either the waist or chest. An extra strap at the waist can help distribute the weight of the backpack at the hips taking some pressure away from the shoulders. A chest strap helps keep the shoulders in a better postural position, avoiding rounded shoulders, and will keep the backpack from moving side to side. The size of a backpack should vary depending on the size of the child or teen and should not be too large in size to avoid promoting heavier weight loads; some studies suggest not exceeding 10 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight.
2. Properly Wearing the Backpack:
Wearing a backpack by using only one shoulder strap is a bad habit to break. Usually, this occurs for fashion or when students are in a hurry. When kids and teens wear a backpack they should be using both straps as well as any additional chest or waist straps to offload and evenly distribute weight. This will also keep the backpack from sliding side to side and causing stress on one side of the body if they bend or twist a certain way. Backpacks should also be adjusted to sit high on the back and shoulder for better comfort. This should cause the backpack to sit above the hips and will avoid increased stress through the spine caused by the weight of the backpack.
3. Offload the Backpack when Possible:
Students should be sensible about taking off their backpacks when on the bus and standing around class/campus. Putting away their backpacks in a locker when they don’t require specific classroom materials is one way to offload your backpack. Offloading their heavy books into cars or lockers when they aren’t needed for that day will help avoid increased strain through the spine too. Heavy backpacks can ultimately lead to changes to the natural curves of the middle and lower back and cause strain to the muscles and joints of the lower back and rib cage.
4. Adjust the Straps Depending on the Type of Clothing
Depending on the season and time of year, some students might need to adjust shoulder straps to bulkier clothing or winter coats. It is important for students to loosen the straps when taking off their backpack, and then readjust or tighten the straps back to a better position each time they use their backpack. This ensures the backpack sits properly on the upper back of the student as well as evenly distributes the weight to avoid strain.
Things to keep in mind when buying a new backpack for your children and teens are all the different types of backpacks and making sure the backpack is fitted properly for each individual. If your child is already prone to back pain, there are specific backpacks sold that are for a student with back pain and will work to avoid further increased symptoms. There are many types of backpacks and styles that will make your child happy but also will keep them healthy.
If you have any further questions on backpacks and symptoms of back pain from your children or teens contact a Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy near you!