By Judy Soborowicz, Active Health Chiropractic
With our kids heading back to school, it is important to think about the book bags they are using. When we consider optimal support of the young and growing spine, a well-fitted backpack is superior to messenger bags that are carried to the side of the body. Backpacks, when used properly, are positioned such that the strongest muscles of the body (back and abdominal) are activated to support the load and weight.
Learning how to use a backpack properly can go a long way toward preserving your child’s good posture. It can also help prevent painful strain on joints such as shoulders, upper back, and neck, which can lead to headaches and multiple pain syndromes. When packing a backpack, use the following guidelines could prevent unnecessary stress and strain on your child’s spine and posture:
The 10-15% Range
Limit the weight of your child’s backpack to no more than 10-15% of their total weight. Use a scale to determine the weight of the loaded pack and divide by your child’s weight to determine the percentage. Become familiar with the load to help you stay within the ideal range.
Pack It Properly
Position heavier books/items closest to the body, and lighter items toward the outside. If you pack items in small pockets on the sides of the pack, take care to balance the weight of these items. When packed properly the backpack should hang evenly on shoulders and not pull away from the body.
Wear It Properly
This means wear both shoulder straps. Shoulder straps should be stiffly padded and wide enough to ensure that they do not dig in and add painful stress to the structures of the shoulder and neck. Wear both straps, one on each shoulder, at the same time.
The Four-Inch Rule
Properly fitted backpacks should not hang more than four inches below the waistline. Take the slack out of the shoulder straps if this is the case.
With the help of the above steps, and a few extra minutes of attention, you may very well be able to prevent your child from developing problems. Some problems caused by pulling against an overloaded or poorly balanced backpack can lead to:
Poor posture/Forward Head Posture
Pain in neck and shoulders, possibly traveling into arms and hands, or tension leading to headaches/poor focus
Back or hip pain, possibly traveling to the front of hips or back of legs
Improper curvature of the spine
Considering the backpack as a source of potential problems is important because it affords you the ability to identify the cause of a problem and/or potentially stop it before it has a chance to start. Although these guidelines are important for anyone using a backpack, it is especially important for young children and their growing spines. As a twig is bent, so grows the tree. Contact your chiropractor with any questions about your child’s spinal growth, posture, or other body signals that may concern you. Every child deserves complete health care, so let’s take care of their backs while we can.