Posted on 22 August 2017 by Willow Chiropractic
Tags: Active Ageing, Back Pain, Back2School, Family Health, Wellbeing

Is your child's backpack causing them pain?

Ah, school. New sets of flashy highlighters, packs of biros in every pencil case and a backpack to haul it all. Your child’s eyes might ignite when they see a colourful superhero backpack or they may even beg for one with so many compartments it could hold enough food for a year. But, although a superhero backpack sounds admirable, parents should be focused primarily on strong, sturdy bags that don’t result in serious back or neck discomfort for your child.

With the kids back to school, now is the perfect time to establish some positive habits.

Backpacks may cause discomfort or pain in children when worn incorrectly. Wearing a backpack that is too heavy, the amount of time carrying one, the distance walked, and poor placement of items can be contributing risk factors for discomfort, fatigue and most commonly, pain.

Did you know, pain in young children is most commonly caused by:

  • Lugging around heavy backpacks during their school day
  • Spending too much time on their mobile devices when at home
  • Poor spinal health caused by stress on the spine

Researchers at the University of California in Riverside led a study in which 3,500 children aged 10-15 participated. The researchers weighed the children's backpacks and asked the kids how often they used their back-packs and how much pain, if any, they felt as a result.

Most students said they hurt, at least a bit, from their back-packs; 64% reported having back pain at some time. Two of every five children said they felt pain while wearing their backpacks. In students reporting pain, about 12% said it was "not bad," while almost 90% said their back pain was "bad" or "very bad."

Luckily, just in time for back to school shopping, we have some top tips that can ensure your child’s backpack is comfortable for them as-well as reducing the risk of any aches and pains. After all, pain is NOT normal.

                                                 Different back-pack set-ups

1. One size doesn’t fit all. The back of the backpack should fit the back of the child. So, the height of the backpack should extend from about 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above the waist. It’s important to remember when choosing a backpack for a child's use, the one used the year before may no longer be the right size. Ensuring two straps are worn is also very important, one strap over the shoulder, no matter how appropriate the bag is, will cause one side of your body to compensate for the added weight – which means more pain.

2. Choose breathable materials. some backpacks may be trendy, but they can also weigh more than breathable materials. Buy a weatherproof pack that won’t be weighed down or damaged by rain and other elements.

3. Lighten the load. More compartments mean more stuff. Young children should be able to get by with one main compartment, whereas older children typically need more. Help your child understand the essentials that need to be carried daily, then pick a backpack accordingly. 

"Students carrying heavier backpacks relative to their body weight are more likely to report back pain."  - Issue of the Journal of Paediatric Orthopaedics.

So, how much is too much?

Pain is associated with wearing a backpack weighing more than 20% of the student's body weight, write the researchers. Pupils routinely carry bags filled with heavy books, stationary, laptops, sports kit and packed lunches, which may weigh as much as TWO STONE! With this added weight and weakened spinal health - it is inevitable that pain will develop. 

Minor adjustments to the backpack are a great start, thus taking the pressure off the spine and encouraging better posture. But, with your child’s spinal health already deteriorated, the pain will continue. 

Rose, our Yate chiropractor says "Pain in the body is a signal telling us something is wrong. Regardless of how young someone is, if their spinal health isn't being taken care of using minor adjustments to their back-pack and their spine, then they will inevitably experience pain, which can cause negative distraction in a learning environment."

                                                Pain gets you down                                

Children spend 8 hours a day in school. So, it is vital to ensure their health is taken care of. The positive thing is, if your child’s posture and spinal health is taken care of, then they will be less likely to experience any aches or pains in the future. Better posture and less pain means higher productivity, keeping your child focused in school rather than getting distracted by little niggles. 

The final tip:

Children who suffer with pain caused by stresses on the spine can benefit massively from chiropractic care. Chiropractors look at the spine and adjust what isn't moving freely, to allow movement in the spine and free up the nerves. With this regular care, children are much more efficient at school and rarely complain of pain. Whether that be back, neck or joint pain.

Ian, our Yate chiropractor says: "Having a well fitted backpack that is worn with both straps and the water bottle deep inside means that my 2 girls arrive to school safe and sound. One that is unbalanced and worn on one shoulder will eventually unseat a cycling or scooting child or even trip a distracted walker.

Comfort and fit makes a happy child and a happy child is one ready to get the most out of school. Also, a well-rested and physically comfortable child will cope with the demands of sitting and standing for long periods at school. Both my girls get regular chiropractic check-ups every few weeks and I absolutely believe that this is helping them achieve their goals at school.

                                                Neve - out of pain                                                   

Neve, a patient of Ian's says:

“I saw Ian in Yate with knee pain and thumb pain. I visited many doctors and even the hospital but they were unable to help deal with my pain. Eventually it started to impact my school work as it was too painful to write, too painful to participate in sports and even too painful to walk - especially with my backpack! 

Within a month of treatment with Ian, I can now walk to school, write and take part in physical activities; which I never thought I would be able to do again... Pain free!"

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