Friday, September 20, 2013

Your Child's Backpack: Potential Cause for Back Injury

Hi, I am so glad that you are here.  I want to share something I discovered  a couple of years ago. I hope you find this post helpful.

Back to School Backpacks

Back to school means backpacks - among many other things. But it’s the backpack that is most visual when you scan the school yard. Every child has one. 

I don’t know about you, but I end up buying new one every yer. AAs th girls got older their tastes changed and their baqck packs reflected those changes.

Back packs are an unavoidable expense that that goes with baqck to school. And let’s face it, they are very useful. Right from Junior Kindergarten and beyond, backpacks keep you organized and provide a means to carry everything you need.

And if you’re like me, you haven’t dedicated much brain power to your backpack purchase. Your kid likes it. The price is right. Bingo we have a winner. And this might be okay for your JK and SK students but there is so much more to consider.

For instance, did you know that your child can be injured from an ill-fitting or incorrectly worn backpack? It’s true. Injuries like strains, sprains, and fractures of the back and shoulders, as well as contusions. Our children are particularly susceptible to these injuries because their bodies are still growing and developing.

How Can Backpacks Cause Problems? 

 The Canadian Chiropractic Association states that backpacks can affect your child's health. Carrying a heavy load can lead to poor posture and a distorted spinal column. Over time this can cause muscle strain, headaches, back, neck and arm pain, and even nerve damage. 

A heavy backpack will make your child compensate by bending forward at the hips or arching her back compressing her spine unnaturally. Over time, your child’s shoulders will become rounded and his upper back curved. 

The Canadian Chiropractic Association

Wearing a backpack over just one shoulder or using a messenger bag will cause your child to lean to one side to offset the extra weight. They may develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck. 

Tight, narrow straps dig into their shoulders and can pinch nerves and interfere with circulation. Your child might develop tingling, numbness, and weakness in their arms and hands.

Carrying a heavy backpack increases the risk of falling, especially on stairs - places where the backpack puts them off balance.

People who carry large packs often aren't aware of how much space their backpacks take up. Who hasn’t been hit by someone’s backpack when they turned around or moved through a tight space?

******The American Occupational Therapy Association considers that over 50 percent of students aged 9 to 20 have chronic back pain from over packed or poorly packed backpacks.************

Safe Backpack Features That Help Reduce the Chance of Injury 

1. Lightweight material. 
Dr. Danielle Cooley advises, “Choose vinyl or canvas. Backpacks that are heavy when nothing is in them do nothing but add unnecessary weight to the back.”

2. Shoulder straps. 
As reported in Medical News Today, Dr. Cooley, an osteopathic family physician and pain care specialist advises that a backpack have two padded, wide (2-inches), adjustable shoulder straps.

a.   “The straps should also be adjustable so that you are able to make the backpack rest on the strongest part of the back,” Dr. Cooley said. “Failure to do so can cause misalignment, pain and a condition called sway back, or increased lumbar lordosis, which occurs when the natural curvature of the spine becomes exaggerated to compensate for the stress of carrying heavy objects.” 

b.   Wide, padded shoulder straps will ensure that the straps do not cut into the arms and armpits. Poorly designed shoulder straps can dig deep into muscles causing strain and pinched nerves.

3. Proportion. 
Choose a backpack that is proportionate to your child’s body size and not larger than what is really needed.

a.   The top of the backpack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulders.

b.   The bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone. Measure the backpack. A backpack meant for school shouldn't extend 4 inches (10cm) below your child's waistline. A backpack that is too low will cause them to lean forward and carry the full weight on the upper back.

c.   To decrease risk of injury, it's important to ensure a proper fit. According to Dr. Kathryn McLeod of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Georgia Health Sciences System, a backpack shouldn't cover more than 75 percent of the length of your child's back--approximately the area between the waist and shoulder blades.

4. Padded Back. 
A padded back piece will protect your child’s back from sharp objects like pens and pencils from poking through and will contour your child's back for increased comfort. 

5. Individualized Compartments. 
You should use the multiple compartments evenly distribute weight in the backpack. 

6. Hip Strap or Waist Belt. 
A hip strap or waist belt helps to redistribute as much as 50 to 70 percent of the weight off the upper body and onto the pelvis, equalizing the strain on the bones, joints, and muscles.

Pack It Right

The Canadian Chiropractic Association suggests that a filled backpack shouldn't weigh more than 15 percent of your body weight (i.e. a 90 pound child should not carry more than 14 pounds in a backpack; a 30 Kilogram child should not carry more than 4.5 kilograms). Weigh the backpack when in doubt or take notice when your child is leaning forward to carry it.

***********The Canadian Chiropractic Association suggests that a filled backpack for an elementary school child shouldn't weigh more than 10% of your body weight.************

When your child's backpack is too heavy, help her figure out what items are not necessary. Your child’s backpack should only contain what is absolutely necessary for that day.

The Canadian Chiropractic Association advises you to place the heaviest objects close to the body and light or odd-shaped objects away from the back.

Wear It Properly

It's vital that both straps are used to avoid putting too much strain on one side of the body. Ensure that the straps are adjusted for your child's frame so that the pack fits snugly but isn't overly tight. 

If available, use the waist strap to help distribute the load more evenly. When worn correctly, the bag should sit flush against the back and rest evenly in the middle of the back.

Test the fit of the backpack by sliding your hand between the backpack and your child’s back – if you can’t slide your hand in, the backpack is too snug.

*****Note that many schools don't allow rolling backpacks because the extendable handles can be a tripping hazard. Also, they're often not considered to be very cool! If you do get a rolling backpack, opt for one that also has straps so that it can be worn when you don't feel like pulling it.*****

Speak Up When it Hurts 

Once your child has had a chance to wear their new backpack for a fewd days, ask them if their backs or necks hurt. Continue to ask them over the next few weeks. 

If they experience pain, you might have to look into buying them a different backpack. And if the pain persists, you may want to contact your child’s doctor. Backpacks can't be beat for helping your child carry their belongings. And now we know what to look for when making our next backpack purchase – beyond your child’s need for style.

Backpack Purchasing Checklist 

Before you let your child choose their backpack, consider some simple guidelines to be sure the choice is safe. 

So how did my granddaughter's backpack measure up?

  • It is made from a light weight material.
  • It has two padded shoulder straps.
  • The shoulder straps are about 2" wide and are adjustable.
  • It does not have a hip or waist strap.
  • The back is padded. That one surprised me.
  • It has only one compartment but I think that is okay for a SK student. She rarely carries more than her lunch bag.
  • The proportion is good for her size and the fit is perfect.
And bonus - she loves her pink and purple Tinkerbell backpack.

*Remember, your child may need to put less in her/his backpack or carry it differently if:

  • they struggle to put on or take off their backpack
  • they lean forward or to the side to carry their backpack 
  • they have pain 

Blog Hop Blitz Yahhh! This post was featured at Gladiator in Heels because it was on of the most visited blogs from the Blog Hop Blitz.  Thank you Tiffany!

Well, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this post. 

If your interested, stop by my Etsy Shop, Little Shop of Treasures or check out this free printable calendar.

If you would like to receive my blog updates please subscribe via email or follow me on TwitterPinterest or Blog Lovin.

Have a fantastic day.

Special thanks to:
·        Canadian Chiropractic Association