Back pain is pervasive among American adults, but they are not alone: Young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor for some, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
“In my own practice, I have noticed an increase in the number of young children who are complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain,” said ACA member Dr. Scott Bautch, who practices in Wausau, Wis., and is president of ACA’s Council on Occupational Health. “The first question I ask these patients is, ‘Do you carry a backpack to school?’ Almost always the answer is ‘yes.’”
This back pain trend among young people isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks—often slung over just one shoulder. Surveys show children today carry everything from books, laptops and school supplies to sports uniforms, shoes and water bottles in their backpacks at any given time.
One study examining the impact of backpacks on children found that over 70% of children surveyed had a backpack that exceeded the recommended 10% of their body weight. Of these children, 32% complained of back pain.
Another study on backpack weight and schoolchildren’s posture showed that head and spinal posture were affected by backpack weight, with heavier backpacks causing a child’s head and spine to bend farther forward.
What Can You Do?
Dr. Bautch suggests using an ergonomically designed backpack. He offers parents the following tips on choosing the right backpack for their child and wearing it properly:
Chiropractic Care Can Help
If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call your chiropractor. Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages. In addition, chiropractors can recommend exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.
Chen Y-L, Mu Y-C. Effects of backpack load and position on body strains in male schoolchildren while walking. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(3): e0193648. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193648
Perrone M, Orr R, Hing W, Milne N, Pope R. The impact of backpack loads on school children: A critical narrative review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(11):2529. Published 2018 Nov 12. doi:10.3390/ijerph15112529
By North Park Chiropractic Center
August 16, 2021