Back pain in children is not that common and often may be associated with underlying disorders. However, recent evidence has suggested backpacks in school going children to be a cause of back pain. The school going does involve carrying backpacks filled with books and materials and is continuing to be so in future time, it is of concern. The parents need to aware of the fact that loading the spine with heavier bags may result in back pain in their child.
Though further research is demanded in the field from a scientific view [The present research is not conclusive], because it is a highly preventable issue, it is better to know about it.
What Happens When Child’s Back is Loaded with Backpack
A backpack allows distribution of heavy load the heavy load across the strong back and shoulder muscles. But the load itself can strain the back, muscles of the neck and shoulder/
The continued load can affect curves of the back, rounding of the shoulder, causes the child to lean forward and thus prone to falls.
Worst effects are by the habit of carrying backpacks over one shoulder as this causes uneven weight distribution resulting in spine leaning to the opposite side,= and puts stress on g the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other.
This can lead to muscle imbalance can cause muscle strain, muscle spasm, and back pain in the near term and chronic back problems later in life.
A heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles, contributing to a headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain, and/or neck and arm pain.
How to Recognize a Backpack Causing a Back Pain
A school going child would complain of pain the back, shoulders, neck or even headache. The pain is often short-term and gets reduced after a short period of rest.
A back pain that persists or increasing even after rest should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Next, the backpack carrying habits of the child should be noted. Her gait pattern after the backpack is lifted should be noted.
A correlation can be established by observant parents. Typically, backpack back pain issues would not be present for long vacations etc.
Tips and Recommendation for Use of Backpacks in Children
It must be clarified in the beginning that the literature, though recognizes the issue, there is no clear guidelines or recommendation. Therefore, the following tips are based on the published experience of different authors [That means that the level of evidence is not very high]. But they are reasonable recommendations to avoid backpack injuries.
Limit the Weight
A child should not carry more than 10-15% of the child’s body weight. This can be done by use of lockers in the school to keep extra books, sharing the books amongst two students during class reading if the school allows so that heavier stuff can be left at home.
The idea is to reduce the books to the minimum in a possible way.
Better Backpack Designs
Look for backpack design features that help reduce the chance of back pain:
- Lightweight material
- Padded, wide adjustable shoulder straps and padded back
- Multiple compartments
- Prefer a backpack with
- Hip strap, waist belt, or frame to redistribute the weight to the pelvis
- Wheels – The backpack can be pulled rather than carried
- Choose the smallest backpack that meets the needs of the child
Proper Carrying of the Load
Parents may want to look into the issue and teach their kids the proper use of backpacks
- Never use the backpack over one shoulder. Children do that often and should be discouraged. The backpack should be carried over both the shoulders.
- The packing should allow the heaviest object closer to the body. All the compartments should be filled so that the load is evenly distributed throughout the backpack and items do not shift during movement
- The straps should be snug to the child’s body.
- The bottom of the backpack should be 2 inches above the waist and should lie low near the buttocks
- A forward-leaning gait indicates a heavier load in the bag.
Ask your child if they feel any back aches or pain especially after carrying the loads. Observe the child for signs of back strain and if that could be because of her bag.
Try Good Alternatives
There are a number of things that can replace backpacks. These are saddle bags, roller bags, backpacks with inflatable lumbar support and straps, totally inflatable backpacks, and molded backpacks.
If other things do not work out, try alternatives.