A backpack will allow someone to carry several school books and other items in a way that is practical. Backpacks distribute the heavy load across the back and shoulder muscles, but there is a risk of overloading the backpack which cannot only strain the back but also the neck and shoulders. Carrying a heavy backpack is a frequent cause of back pain in children and in adolescents.
While the back will compensate for any load that is applied to it for an extended period, heavy weight in a backpack can:
- Cause shoulders to round and a person to lean forward, reducing balance which makes it easier to fall.
- Cause distortion in the middle and in the lower back which causes muscle strain and irritates the spine, joints, and the rib cage.
- Pull on neck muscles and contribute to headaches, shoulder pain, lower back, neck, and arm pain.
By following a few guidelines back pain can be avoided:
- Carry the backpack over both shoulders. By carrying a backpack over one shoulder, the muscles will strain to compensate for the uneven weight. The spine leans to the opposite side which stresses the middle back, ribs, and the lower back on one side more than the other. This causes muscle imbalance that causes muscle strain, spasm, and back pain for the short term and it can speed the development of back problems later in life if it isn’t corrected.
- Adjust the straps so the backpack fits snugly to the body, holding the bottom of the backpack two inches above the waist and keep the top just below the base of the skull. Don’t carry the backpack low near the buttocks.
- When lifting the backpack, use leg muscles and keep it close to the body, don’t pick it up by bending over with arms extended.
- Limit backpack weight to 10% of the child’s body weight.
- Alleviate back pain caused by backpacks with rest or reduced activity. If the pain is persisting, it’s uncommon and should be evaluated.
- Pack the heaviest objects first, that way they are carried lower and closest to the body. Fill compartments so the load is evenly distributed throughout the backpack and so the items don’t shift during movement. Pack any sharp or bulky objects so they don’t contact the back.
- Don’t lean forward when walking. If it’s necessary to lean forward when walking, there is too much weight in the backpack.
Call Cross Valley Chiropractic at 570-822-4848 for a consultation, or to learn how Chiropractic care can help with back and neck pain.