Smart Packing = Healthy Backs

How heavy is your child’s backback? The answer — and the amount of damage it’s doing to your child, might surprise you.
“The average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man, or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman,” says Dr. Rick McMichael, president of the American Chiropractic Association. “Growing children should only be carrying 10 to 20 percent of their body weight.”
Heavy backpacks can negatively affect your child’s health by pulling on ligaments and muscles that cause neck and back pain and can possibly cause deformity of the spine.
Parents who want to protect their children from these painful injuries can follow these tips:
Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. They should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
Encourage your child to use both straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and back spasms.
Pack smart. A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively, keeping pointy objects away from the back.
Check to see if your child’s textbooks are available on electronic readers. Or consider buying a second set of textbooks for your child to keep at home.
Learn some back-strengthening exercises to build up muscles. Sit-ups are great since strong abdominal muscles can share the load and take the strain off back muscles.
Encourage your child to tell you about any pain or discomfort he/she may experience.
If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call a licensed chiropractor. For more backpack safety tips, go to www.acatoday.org/patients.