When School is Literally a Pain in the Neck (and Back)

When School is Literally a Pain in the Neck (and Back)

As a chiropractor, I see many people who suffer from neck and back injuries. Often, their injury is not the result of a fall or accident, but rather poor posture over long periods of time, and the resulting incorrect body mechanics.

An incorrectly worn and or overloaded backpack can affect your child’s posture and result in injury. Research shows that over 50 per cent of children will suffer at least one back pain episode during their school days. These children who have had back pain, are then more likely to experience back pain as adults.

Back to school shopping with my daughter, has taught me that glitter and sequins never go out of style. However, we need to concerned about safety first and fashion second.

Follow the tips below to reduce your child’s risk of pain and injury.

Tips for safe backpack use

  • Choose a backpack made of light materials like canvas or vinyl.
  • Choose a backpack with two straps (and use both straps!). Avoid using laptop or messenger bags.
  • Each strap should be at least two inches wide. The straps should be tight enough to prevent the backpack from hanging down off the shoulders, but not too tight as to compress nerves and muscles in the neck and shoulders. 
  • Your child’s backpack should not be higher than the top of their shoulders, and the bottom should be no lower than their hips.  
  • Place the heaviest items closest to your child’s back. This will balance their centre of gravity and prevent poor posture.
  • Pack only what is necessary each day. Be sure to remove unnecessary items from your child backpack at the end of each school day.
  • A waist belt can be used to distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly. (A waist belt can distribute more than half of the load off the shoulders and spine).

How much weight is too much?

For elementary and middle school children, their backpack should weigh less than 10 per cent of their body weight, and no more than 15 per cent of their body weight for high school students. For example, if your first-grader weighs 50lbs, their packed backpack should weigh no more than 5lbs.

Growing children are especially at risk of developing lifelong postural problems from the incorrect use of their backpacks. It is important for parents and kids to consider safety when choosing, packing and using a backpack.

For more information, please contact the Ontario Chiropractic Association or your chiropractor, who can provide you with “Pack It Light, Wear It Right” resources. As always, please contact me if you have any questions.

Image by woodleywonderworksCC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

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