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Backpacks

We all want our children to do well in school. We make sure they bring home their books and do their homework at night. We make sure they have their books packed away in their backpacks and ready to take to classes the next day. However, what we may be overlooking is a threat to our children’s back, more sinister than any fall off the swing set.


September 22, 2009
By Massage Therapy Magazine

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We all want our children to do well in school. We make sure they bring home their books and do their homework at night. We make sure they have their books packed away in their backpacks and ready to take to classes the next day. However, what we may be overlooking is a threat to our children’s back, more sinister than any fall off the swing set.

Recently, scientists have started to look at the effects of carrying heavy backpacks full of books. What they have learned is that carrying heavy backpacks may be a serious threat to your child’s spinal development.

backpack 

 

A team of researchers at Auburn University studied 421 students and found that backpacks carried with one-strap promoted lateral spinal bending and shoulder elevation. Additionally, they noted carrying a backpack promoted significant forward lean of head and trunk.

The scientists state the average backpack represented 17 per cent of the child’s body weight. If we apply this standard to adults, it would be the equivalent of the average 150-pound adult carrying a 26-pound backpack. This would explain why 67.2 per cent of the subjects suffered muscle soreness, 50.8 per cent suffered back pain, 24.5 per cent suffered numbness, and 14.7 per cent suffered shoulder pain.

The researchers went on to conclude that the daily physical stresses associated with carrying a backpack on one shoulder significantly alters the posture and gait of the youth. Orthopedists are of the opinion that continual exposure to carrying weighted loads can promote damage accredited to the imposed postural problems caused by carrying the loads.

The authors of the Auburn study also pointed out that the effects of weight bearing induced stress is a serious issue when considering children and youths who are experiencing physical growth and motor development.

Tips to reduce stress

If your child uses a backpack, there are things you can do to reduce the physical stress:

  • Make sure that the weight of the book bag does not exceed more than 10 per cent of the child’s total body weight. This is especially important for children in grades 1-4.
  • Avoid using backpacks or athletic bags that have only one strap.
  • Ensure that children wear both straps on their shoulder’s to distribute weight evenly. This will significantly reduce book bag carrying stresses.
  • Have your child examined regularly by a Massage Therapist so potential spinal, or postural, problems can be addressed and corrected.
  • It is important to remember that children and adolescent youths need backpack limitations that are sensitive to their age, weight, stage of spinal development, growth pattern and fitness level. Only by exercising prudent care can we safeguard our children’s health.


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