Could Your Child’s Backpack Be Causing Chronic Pain?

Backpack PainSummer is still in full swing, but if you’ve been to the store lately, you’ve probably noticed that the shelves are starting to fill up with back to school supplies. Soon enough it will be time to fill your child’s backpack with crayons, folders and textbooks, which can weigh heavy on your child’s back. If your not careful, that heavy backpack could be causing your child some pain. Today, we examine if your child’s backpack is a health risk, and how you can pick out the best backpack for your child.

Back Pack Pain

Just two years ago, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that emergency rooms treated 5,415 patients with backpack-related injuries. The injuries ranged from acute back pain to chronic discomfort, and researchers noted that heavy backpacks were contributing to the problem.

“Wearing a backpack incorrectly or wearing one that’s too heavy can be a contributing risk factor for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and pain, especially in the lower back,” said Karen Jacobs, EdD, OTR/L, CPE, a clinical professor of occupational therapy at Boston University. Physical Therapist Samantha Dutrow added to Jacobs’ comments, noting that heavy loads can also cause neck and shoulder problems. “Injury can occur when a child is trying to adapt to the heavy load by using improper postures, such as leaning forward, arching the back, and leaning to one side.”

The problem, however, is that with active children, it’s often difficult to determine if the backpack is actually the problem. Backpacks are designed to adequately disperse weight to regions that can handle extra weight, and school-aged children are often involved in numerous activities on a daily basis, which can all contribute to back pain.

Lighten The Load

Here are three tips for picking out a good backpack for your child.

Avoid Rolling Backpacks – Some children like the option of rolling their backpacks around the halls, and yes, it can take some of the load of their back, but the constant picking up and setting down in class and on any stairs will be bad on your child’s back.

Double Strap It – Despite Channing Tatum’s assurances in 21 Jump Street that “one strapping it” is the cool way to wear a backpack, only wearing your backpack over one shoulder can put excess stress on parts of your body. Find a backpack with two straps so its weight is evenly distributed over both shoulders.

Look for Quality – We’re not saying that you need to shell out big coin for a backpack, but don’t just buy the cheapest one off the rack. Look for a quality made backpack with a padded back and a plastic frame sheet, which will help with weight distribution.

If your child complains of back pain, consider looking at their backpack habits, but if problems persist, swing on in to our clinic!

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).

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