Each school year millions of children walk to, from, and around school carrying backpacks filled with books and materials. Parents should be aware that overly stressing the back with a heavy backpack could cause back pain in their child.
Following a few guidelines and using common sense can help avoid this type of back pain.
How Kids’ Backs Respond to Backpacks
Using a backpack allows a child to carry a number of schoolbooks and items in a practical way, distributing the heavy load across the strong back and shoulder muscles. The risk, however, is overload, which can strain the back, neck, or shoulders.
The back will compensate for any load applied to it for an extended period of time. A heavy weight carried in backpacks can:
- Distort the natural curves in the middle and lower backs, causing muscle strain and irritation to the spine joints and the rib cage
- Lead to rounding of the shoulders
- Cause a person to lean forward, reducing balance and making it easier to fall
Habitually carrying backpacks over one shoulder will make muscles strain to compensate for the uneven weight. The spine leans to the opposite side, stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other. This type of muscle imbalance can cause muscle strain, muscle spasm, and back pain in the short term and speed the development of back problems later in life if not corrected.
A heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain, and/or neck and arm pain.