Your Child’s Backpack Shouldn’t be a “Pain in the Neck!”
By Dr. Michael Cocilovo – Founder New City Chiropractic Center
A recent change to a policy at Felix Festa Middle School, profiled in a FIOS1 News report, prompted several patients to come in and ask about backpack safety. The policy, which is also in place at Nanuet and Pearl River schools, says that students cannot carry a backpack to and from class during the day. Very often these backpacks are overloaded and create a very heavy weight, putting stress on children’s backs, shoulders and necks five days a week. Students will be allowed to carry a lighter zippered binder instead.
Most students will still need a backpack to carry all their work in to and from school each day, so how can you choose one that is appropriate?
This is an important purchase because it directly impacts the health and posture of children which can be especially important for those with scoliosis and to help avoid the onset of scoliosis. Recent studies have shown that 64% of children suffer from back pain and more than 14,000 per year visit the doctor or hospital for back trouble. Most cases can be traced to overloaded or ill-fitting backpacks or other school bags. Learning to load, wear and use a backpack properly is important and so is making sure the backpack distributes the load efficiently. Here are some key features to look for:
- Two Straps- Make sure the bag has two straps. Single strapped bags, like satchels and duffel bags, should be avoided. A single strap places the entire load on one side of the body. Two straps balance the load on both shoulders.
- Size- The second most important thing is to have the right size bag. The bag should be no larger than the child’s back. It should rest 1-2 inches below the shoulders and no more than 4 inches below the waistline (note: the waistline is level with the bellybutton).
- Wide, Padded Straps- The bag should have wide shoulder straps. Wide straps distribute the load over more area of the shoulder. The wider the better, with a minimum of two inches. The straps should also be padded. Padding spreads the load and alleviates any pressure points.
- Waist Strap- A waist strap is a wonderful thing! It dramatically helps direct the load away from the shoulders and onto the much stronger waist and hip muscle groups. By lowering part of the load to this point you also remove it from the spine. Less stress on the back and spine means less chance of back pain.
- Chest Strap- A strap across the chest from shoulder strap to shoulder strap is a small, but worthwhile improvement. It holds the shoulder straps securely on the main part of the shoulder eliminating slippage and load shifting. It also reduces the urge to slouch.
- Compartments- Having a bag with several compartments helps in two ways; first, it helps keep the load where you put it and a properly loaded backpack can go a long way to reducing the stress while a load that shifts means shifting or dynamic stress — dynamic stresses are bad; second, it lets you put flat things next to the back and pointy things, like pencils, pens and protractors, away from it.
- Lightweight- The bag should be light – the lighter the better. Stress on the back is caused by the total weight of the bag; anything you can do to reduce that weight will reduce the stress.
By following these simple but important guidelines when purchasing your child’s new backpack, you will be eliminating much of the stresses and strains that can cause back pain and contribute to scoliosis, shoulder pain, lower back pain and even knee pain.
We are available to speak at your school or at civic events where we will also conduct back screenings for students, just give us a call at 845-634-8877.
Finally, if your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call your doctor of chiropractic. Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In addition, doctors of chiropractic can also prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.
For more information on this topic, feel free to contact our office or email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.