Chiropractic Care: Dangers of Heavy Backpacks

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Chiropractors are warning students against carrying heavy backpacks to school regularly. According to a report by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries every year. Experts are now presenting a very simple and straightforward solution: lighten the load.

Chiropractors say that if students don’t take extra care of their backs, it could affect them significantly later in life. Heavy backpacks cause some serious strain to a person’s spine, which particularly affects children because their backs aren’t fully developed yet. All that weight on their back can harm them in the long run.

Rob Michaud and his wife, Chelsea Michaud, co-own and practice at Resilience Chiropractic. Together they promoted backpack safety awareness month at their office because of what they say is an alarming number of young patients visiting their clinic for backpack-related pain.

School Homework and Activities

School means lots of homework and activities—which means students are carrying a lot of supplies, binders, and textbooks on a daily basis.

“The kids we see are carrying more weight in their backpacks then they should be for their little bodies,” Rob Michaud said. “It should be no more than 10% to 15% of their total body weight and that’s hard to do with the school supplies and requirements students are responsible for bringing to school every day.”

The excessive weight can quickly add up to a dangerous amount, according to the chiropractors. Textbooks alone can weigh up to five pounds. For children, this might feel like they are carrying the weight of the world on their backs.

According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, carrying a 12-pound backpack to and from school and lifting it 10 times a day for an entire school year can put a cumulative load on students’ bodies of 21,600 pounds. Their calculation showed that the weight is equivalent to lifting six mid-sized cars.

“What worries me the most is the posture and the slumped shoulders,” said Jennifer Altwies. Jennifer and her 5-year old daughter June both see the Michauds for chiropractic care. “I worry about the backaches, and things I won’t see right away but further down the line.”

June is preparing to head to her first day of kindergarten this year. Jennifer said that her daughter could not be more excited. In fact, June had already picked out her backpack months in advance. Altwies said the chiropractors brought up backpack safety and only then did she realize that the weight of her daughter’s backpack could affect her spine. Chelsea Michaud said that a lot of moms do not think about safety features when buying a backpack.

“A lot of times mom will buy it so their kids can grow into the bag, getting the best bang for their buck,” Michaud said. “Instead of buying the backpacks so they fit their kids now, it’s important for moms to consider safety factors so that extra wear and tear isn’t on their spine.”

Altwies added: “I didn’t realize the importance of picking the right backpack. I was thinking about the price and if my daughter liked it and would wear it and be happy; but I should have been looking for the padded shoulders.”

Chiropractic Care Help

Chiropractors suggest parents encourage their children to wear both backpack straps to help balance it out. The use of only one shoulder to carry an overloaded backpack can result in putting more weight on one side. This can cause the spine to curve unnaturally. The experts also recommend backpacks with two, wide padded straps and multiple compartments.

“Kids will go through the school day with a heavy backpack and they won’t complain about the pain they might be feeling. To help reduce the possibility of pain, make sure you can see their shoulders and tighten the straps.”

It also helps to arrange the bag properly. The heaviest items like textbooks should be closest to the back. Lighter items should be in front. If possible, remove items that are not necessary for day-to-day school activities. Leaving more items in the locker is also very helpful. Parents should ensure that the backpack weighs no more than 10 percent of their child’s body weight.
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