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The Backpack Dilemma

by Kevin O'Hara D.C.

Did you know that the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that over 6,500 emergency room visits each year are the result of backpack injuries? Woe, really? Yes, Really. Did you know that 60 % of youths will experience at least one lower-back issue as a result of improper backpack use?  How about that 55% of students carry more weight than the 10-15% of their body weight?  One last fun fact, although I could go on and on, in a 1999 study, 58 % of   Chicago and Wilmington, Delaware orthopedists polled reported treating children with back or shoulder pain attributed to carrying backpacks.

 So we agree that our kids are carrying too much, Right? Right. The weight limit your child carries should not exceed 10 to 15% of the child's body weight. Simple, 100-pound child, 15 pound load maximum. When selecting a backpack, select a well-made, thick padded shoulder strap (2 inches) backpack with a waist belt and multiple compartments. No over the shoulder packs please, for obvious reasons. If you carry a backpack over one shoulder your body begins to compensate for the extra weight and throws your entire body posture and alignment out the window. Then it's ouchy, pinchy, pokey ect...  When packing, have your child pack the heaviest load closest to their back for better load distribution. Ask at school for a home copy of heavier texts books so your kids don't have to haul them back and forth from school, leave the heaviest ones at school for Pete's sake. Always make sure that the shoulder straps are secured so the pack fits closely to your child's back, again, better load distribution makes for a more comfortable haul. Lastly, Lift the backpack correctly. Face it, straight back, bend at the knees and lift. Easy.

 You should look for telltale signs that your child is having issues with their backpack. Your child struggles to get their backpack on or off; Your child has too lean forward when they walk; Any numbness or weakness in the arms or legs; One shoulder is higher than the other. These suggestions may seem pretty common sense but you would be surprised how many parents and teachers alike seem to discount what they are seeing or outright ignore it.   In most instances the children cannot make the correlation between the backpack weight and why their back or neck hurts. So it is up to us to look out for  our children's best interest. Remember, alignment is key. Once you introduce a mechanism into your kinetic chain that throws things off you will feel the change. If it goes on too long without a correction you can cause long-term defects. So, "maybe it will go away" is never a good way to deal with pain. Let me know how it goes.

Dr. Kevin O'Hara

Your Mount Prospect / Arlington Heights Chiropractor