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Backpacks & Back Pain 

backpack_.JPGChronic back pain is prevalent among American adults, but in recent years, an increasing number of young children have also been plagued with chronic back pain.  What used to be a rare occurrence is unfortunately becoming pervasive and we now see chronic back problems beginning much earlier than it has in previous generations.  According to the A.C.A. (American Chiropractic Association) carrying overweight backpacks is a major factor.  Each year, thousands of children are treated in the emergency room for sprains and strains due to the use of backpacks or other book bags.

Over the last decade, chiropractic physicians have been noticing a significant increase in the number of young children who are complaining about back, shoulder and neck pain. This new back pain trend among our youth isn't really surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight carried in their backpacks.  It's even worse when a backpack is carried just over one shoulder instead of distributing the weight over both sides of the body, which some studies have indicated could worsen the abnormal curvature of the spine in scoliosis patients.

Rolling book bags are a great alternative if your child's school allow them.   In some cases schools will only allow rolling book bags if it is deemed medically necessary.

The good news is that increasing numbers of text books are becoming available in digital form, and more school systems are adopting the use of iPads and other tablets, which can substantially reduce the weight of the backpacks our children carry. In the meantime, here are some tips for lowering the risk of strains and sprains:
  • Your child's backpack should ideally not weigh any more than ten percent of their body weight. Notice if your child leans forward to support the backpack.  If so, it is probably too heavy for your child.
  • The ACA suggests that backpacks should not hang more than 4" below the waistline to lessen the risk of straining the shoulders.
  • Try to make sure the weight of the backpack is evenly distributed across your child's back.  Having a well designed backpack with various compartments can help with this.
  • Look for a backpack that include a waist strap which can help distribute the weight of the pack even more.
  • Avoid buying an extra large backpack which becomes tempting to fill with more than is actually necessary.  A smaller pack will force you to pare down what is carried to the absolute essentials.
  • Don't let your child be a "one-strapper" - encourage your child to always use both straps when carrying a backpack, which will better distribute the weight across his or her body.
  • It is important to have wide, padded shoulder straps for comfort, and also make sure the straps are adjustable.  See additional ACA recommendations.
  • If your child has a school locker, encourage them to use it between classes to unload unneeded books.
  • Speak with your child's teachers to see if they can leave the heaviest books at home (or get an extra set to use at school) and just carry handouts back and forth, to reduce weight even further.

How can Millar Chiropractic Clinic help?

If your child (or you) experiences any discomfort or pain from backpack use, call Millar chiropractic Clinic for an appointment with one of our chiropractic physicians, who have the training and experience to treat patients of all ages.  You can rest assured that your Millar chiropractor will use a treatment that is gentle and appropriate for children.  Your Millar chiropractor may also offer guidance on exercises and a healthy lifestyle, and when necessary may prescribe the use of a rolling book bag for your child.

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