Parents are breathing a sigh of relief this past month as children are finally going back to school on a regular schedule. It's been a while since we've had to move with routine into the world. One thing we've done much less of the past year or so is lug around a heavy bag or backpack with all our "gear" for regular life.
Daily "gear" is a bag full of books, laptops, and other school supplies for kids. These items can add up to a lot of weight on little backs and shoulders.
The back-breaking work of backpacks
Chronic upper back pain and neck pain are the results of carrying heavy backpacks and shoulder bags daily. Your kid’s backpack can easily weigh upwards of 20 pounds with all their school gear. That is a big load of daily compression on the spine. Shoulder bags are even worse by concentrating weight on one side of the body, pulling things out of alignment in addition to compression.
Backpack weight settles in the bottom of the bag, straining the upper back and supportive muscles down the spine. The heavy load places pressure on the nerves that run from the neck, across the shoulders, and down the front of the arms. The worst-case scenario is nerve damage resulting from the constant pressure resulting in arm numbness and loss of motor control.
Backpack and shoulder bag ergonomics
The first step to a healthier back-to-school is a backpack that is the right size for your child. While it might be tempting to use a larger bag to hold more stuff, the combination of too much weight and an ill-fitting backpack will increase the chance of injury. Once you have the right size, look for these other back-saving features:
- A pack with multiple pockets and compartments helps to distribute the weight more evenly
- A chest strap that clips across the chest will pull the pack forward, helping to reduce weight off the shoulders
- Shoulder straps should be wide and well-padded to relieve pressure on the shoulders
You can protect your child's back further by loading the bag with the heavier items on the bottom and the lighter items on the sides and top. Most importantly, have your child only carry the things they need for that day.
Kids can benefit from chiropractic care, too!
The weight of a lousy backpack and poor posture can catch up with even the youngest among us. Ask your kid to check in with their body. If they are experiencing numbness or tingling in their hand and arms, or feel like they are living with a stiff back or neck, seek professional help. With early intervention, a chiropractor can help them avoid a lifetime of chronic back, shoulder, and neck pain.
Make sure you're kid is growing up straight and tall!
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See our other posts on exercise and daily adjustments to improve your posture and your life!