Can wearing a backpack cause spine problems?
When you were in school (or if you are in school now) you, like most of the other millions of children across the world wore backpacks with many heavy textbooks. It was almost a rite of passage. As you grew up and went to middle school, high school and in college you carried many heavy books from one class to another, day in and day out.
If the weight was not evenly distributed during these formative years you could have and probably did cause some type of misalignment in your spine which could affect you for the rest of your life without treatment.
Backpacks and Back Pain study
A study was conducted with 5318 students between the ages of 6 and 19 to understand the familiarity and severity of back pain and the factors responsible for it. This student sample was divided into three groups – children, younger and older adolescents.
Based on a series of interviews, researchers found more than 60% of these students experience pain from wearing their backpacks. Further research revealed mostly younger and older adolescents experience this pain in comparison to young children even though they relatively carry more weight. However; since the young children are unlikely to carry this weight for a long time (they don’t change classrooms as much) the study suggests the time spent carrying this heavy load is more detrimental than the weight of the backpack, in most cases.
Backpack usage and long-term problems
The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported more than 14,000 children receive treatment for injuries related to backpack use every year. The lower portion of the spine is extremely vulnerable to injury when children (young or old) carry excess loads. These injuries can result in degenerative deformities in the lower spine. The commission also indicated the weight of the backpack is only part of the issue; the way you carry it is just as important.
Overweight backpacks can change and harm the natural curve of the middle and lower back in children causing problems in their growth and development and cause muscle strain. When backpacks are only carried over one shoulder it strains one side of the body due to the uneven distribution of weight. As a result the spine leans towards the opposite side causing stress to a single side of the middle and lower back along with the ribs. This type of imbalance can lead to muscle spasms and back pain even at a very young age and can cause serious problems later in life.
If you or your child is experiencing back pain and are carrying heavy loads like the above, it is important to get early treatment for back pain in Lowell, MA to prevent the development of serious health conditions. Chiropractic treatment or chiropractic care is a non-surgical, drug free way to help with back pain.
Preventing the development of back pain from backpacks
Besides not using a backpack at all, which is not likely practical, we have a few helpful tips for minimizing the problem:
Have your child’s spine checked
As discussed, overweight backpacks can really hurt the position of the spine. This, of course, can lead to back pain, posture issues or even compressed discs. While using a backpack may be unavoidable, we recommend you see your pediatric physician regularly to ensure that the spinal growth and overall growth of your child is not affected.
Reduce the backpack load
Generally, children carry 10 to 22 percent of their body weight in books in their backpacks. This heavy load could result in the compression of their spinal discs which could be a major problem now and in the future. A 2017 study in Applied Ergonomics suggested children limit the load to no more than 15 percent of their body weight in their backpack.
Proper organizing of backpacks
Of the weight they do carry, it is a good idea to make sure the weight is distributed evenly within the backpack, especially if the items have the ability to shift while carrying them. Heavier books should be closer to the back of the carrier so the center of gravity is inline with their body and not pulling them off balance which strains the back. And although not a popular option with children (and others), carrying less and making more trips to their locker to switch books (maybe every other period) would be advisable.
Use backpacks with padded shoulder straps
Using a backpack with wider and padded (more comfortable) shoulder straps is the better option. Thin straps can cut into the body, especially with more weight causing bruising, circulation problems and other possible issues in the future.
Wear both backpack straps on both shoulders
Wearing backpacks on one shoulder can cause pain on that side as well as uneven growth and spinal misalignment. By using both straps you distribute the load evenly across the body which reduces the chance of injury.
Tighten the straps of the Backpack
Keeping the shoulder straps loose can make the backpacks seem heavier, the contents can shift more easily and it puts more of a strain on the shoulders and the back. Again this will further help avoid developmental problems.
Wearing a waist belt
Many backpacks contain waist belts. These belts help to shift the load off only the shoulders and move it to the lower part of their body. This too can reduce neck pain and back pain since the weight is more centralized.
Consulting an experienced chiropractor for lower back pain
Chiropractic treatment has been around for a very long time. It is one of the most effective forms of pain relief especially when it comes to posture related problems. Massachusetts Chiropractors like Dr. Paul Daigle and Central Street Chiropractic can help you and your child with any back pain, neck pain or spinal issues that you are experiencing.
While drugs/medication/opioids can help reduce the pain by turning off the pain receptors, it doesn’t actually solve the problem; it just masks it.
Your body is a great machine that can actually heal itself in a lot of cases given the opportunity.
Chiropractic Care is one of the ways you can increase your internal healing power by ensuring the brain/body connection is free and clear of obstructions.
If your spine is out of alignment and cannot clearly talk with your brain then your problems will continue.
However, with proper spinal manipulation by Dr. Paul Daigle (who has over 28 years of experience helping people just like you) you could be better, more flexible and much happier within a shorter amount of time and without drugs or surgery.