Back to school means back to backpack back pain

The Pediatric Insider

© 2014 Roy Benaroch, MD

(Yes, I know, I need an editor to help me write better headlines for these stories. Send in your application to our human resources department.)

From researchers in Spain, a simple, brief study confirms what you would have guessed: kids’ huge backpacks are hurting their backs.

A team collected data from about 1400 students in lovely Galicia, Spain (where I have decided I want to go on vacation, despite the hordes of back-injured children. I won’t tell them I’m a doc.) Those carrying the heaviest backpacks had a 50% increased incidence of back pain. The risk was higher among girls.

There are a lot of pressures on kids these days. You’d think a huge backpack wouldn’t have to be one of them. There are some things parents might be able to do to mitigate this problem:

  • See if you can access textbooks online—and if so, encourage your child to just leave his books at school rather than lugging them back and forth.
  • If you can’t get online access, consider getting a second set of books to keep at home. You can probably buy them used on Ebay or Amazon, or maybe convince the school to give you a second set with a doctor’s note documenting back problems.
  • If allowed, try a rolling backpack. Many schools discourage these because they gum up the overcrowded hallways.
  • Use a backpack that fits right, with the straps tight enough to hold the weight high on the back. A high-quality backpack has wide, padded straps and is designed to keep the weight close to the body, not hanging down the back.
  • Discourage the slouchy, single-shoulder carry. A backpack with a significant amount of weight is best carried on straps across both shoulders—or even better yet, with a belt across the lower belly that supports some weight on the hips.
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One Comment on “Back to school means back to backpack back pain”

  1. BBooey Says:

    Also just in from the Iberian Peninsula, an observational study in Portugal looked at nearly 1000 children ages 10 to 16, examining the same factors as the Galician Studay (age, sex, BMI and Backpack wt) along with posture found that only posture was associated with low back pain, including those with poor posture watching TV and other screens. Imagine that, slouchy teenagers…

    In terms of safely carrying your backpack, be smart and pack it correctly – heavy books closer to your body. Kids go hiking all the time with heavier backpacks without problems. Also, my middle schooler tells me that using a rolling backpack statistically increases your chances of suffering a wedgie in school, though lacks data to “back” this up.

    Like


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