Healthy Hoboken – September 2009
[Every month, Hoboken411 will be posting a column to give answers to Hobokenites’ most frequently asked health questions. The column is written by Dr. Laura Brayton of Hoboken Chiropractic + Wellness. Please send all health-related questions to DrBrayton@HobokenChiro.com.]
Kids carry too many books!
“Dear Dr. Brayton,
My fourth-grade child started school last week and has recently been complaining of back and shoulder pain. She is carrying a lot more books for class this year and I am concerned that her backpack may be the reason for her back pain. She has never had back pain before.
What should I do?
Concerned Hoboken Mother”
Book Bag Carrying Tips
Dear Concerned Hoboken Mother,
Heavy backpacks amongst school-age children have become an epidemic and a concern for the musculoskeletal system of growing children’s bodies.
It is estimated that at least half of all student backpacks are too heavy for children’s body size. In addition to back and shoulder pain, heavy backpacks can cause headaches and posture problems as well. Warning signs that a child’s backpack is too heavy include: struggling while taking off or putting on the backpack, leaning forward to carry the bag, numbness or weakness in arms/legs, and one shoulder stays higher than the other.
To help prevent injury, look for a backpack that has wide, cushioned straps that distributes weight on the shoulders evenly and a waist strap to help stabilize the load by not allowing the pack to move around. Also, make sure the backpack fits properly so that the straps are not so tight that the pack goes above the collar line or is wider than the shoulders but also is not so loose as to hang more than four inches below the belt line. Be sure that the weight of your child’s backpack is no more than fifteen percent of your child’s body weight and students should pack the heaviest objects first so they are carried lower and closer to the body. Eliminate any unnecessary items from the backpack if possible. When putting the backpack on, your child should bend at the knees and make sure to lift the pack with the legs, not the back, putting one strap on at a time. Avoid wearing the backpack over only one shoulder or using messenger-style bags which get slung over one shoulder and cause improper weight distribution.
If a heavy backpack has already caused back pain, pediatric chiropractic and massage can correct the cause of the pain safely and effectively as well as prevent improper skeletal growth from poor posture.
Yours in health,