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Posted on 09-28-2016

Over the last few years, chiropractic offices have noted an increase in the number of school age children presenting into their offices due to back pain. Young children are carrying such disproportionately heavy backpacks to and from school that they are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations. A recent Italian study showed the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39 pound burden for a 176-pound man or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman. Of the children in the study, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result of carrying a heavy backpack.

The American Chiropractic Association offers the following suggestions to pass along to parents of young children:

1) Make sure the child's backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause the child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his back. (ie. A child who weighs 80 pounds should not carry a backpack that exceeds 4 to 8 pounds.)

2) The backpack should never hang lower than four inches below the child's waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing the child to lean forward when walking. This can lead to poor posture and chronic back problems in the future.

3) A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the pack's contents most effec-tively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on the child's back so that they can walk and stand more comfortably.

4) A bigger backpack is not necessarily a better backpack. The more room there is in a backpack, the more the child will tend to carry-and the heavier the backpack will be.

5) Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and shoulder muscle spasms and low-back pain. Although "over the shoulder" may be perceived by your child as the "cool" way to wear a backpack, this can lead to poor posture habits and altered spinal biomechanics in the future.

6) The shoulder straps should be as wide as possible and adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child's body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably, potentially causing spinal misalignment and pain.

If your child still continues to experience back pain after all of these precautions have been taken, you should consult your local chiropractor for further recommendations on exercise, stretching, and possible treatment. Chiropractic is very effective in treating back pain in every stage of life.

Timothy S. Cheuvront, D.C.

Chiropractic Sports Physician

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