I.C.P.A. Newsletter November/December 2000
By Richard A. Pistolese
Chiropractors have long recognized the spinal health hazards of heavy backpack
use. Now, research presented at the American Academy of Physical Medicine and
Rehabilitation's annual meeting exposes yet another potential danger of heavy
backpacks: They promote falls in students who wear them. Specifically, students
who carried packs weighing 25% of their body weight exhibited balance problems
while performing normal activities such as climbing stairs or opening doors, in
turn upping their risk of falls. In contrast, students who carried packs
weighing 15% of their body weight maintained their balance moderately well. And,
those carrying 5% of their body weight were most effective at maintaining
balance, compared with their peers who carried more weight.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were over 12,700
visits to emergency rooms in 1998 for backpack-related injuries to 5- to
18-year-olds. A recent survey of 101 doctors conducted by the American Academy
of Orthopedic Surgeons revealed that 58% of the orthopedists polled reported
seeing kids with back or shoulder pain related to backpacks. More than 70% of
the orthopedists surveyed indicated that heavy back packs can become a clinical
problem in school-age children if not enough attention is made to decrease some
of the weight being carried in the packs. The survey, and other reports, also
indicated that a backpack could cause a clinical problem when the contents weigh
20% more than the child's body weight.
In an effort to reduce backpack related injuries, the
we offer the
following suggestions for parents and students. As always, have your child
examined regularly by a chiropractor so that any potential spinal, or postural
problems can be addressed and corrected.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A BACKPACK FOR YOUR CHILD.
Look for backpacks with wide, padded shoulder straps. Narrow straps dig
painfully into shoulders and can hinder circulation, causing numbness or
tingling in the arms, which over time may cause weakness in the hands. Padded
shoulder straps help absorb the load.
Look for backpacks with "S" shaped shoulder straps, which will
ergonomically contour to your child's body.
Consider the weight of the backpack when empty. For example, a canvas
backpack will be lighter weight than leather.
Look for backpacks with a waist or chest strap. This will help keep the load
close to the body and help maintain proper balance.
Look for backpacks with a backpack with a built in back support.
Look for backpacks with a lumbar pillow.
Make sure the backpack is not too heavy. Students of all ages seem to be
carrying heavier loads. Even when worn properly with both straps, leaning
forward to compensate for this extra weight can affect the natural curve in the
lumbar, or lower back region. Extra weight may cause a rounding of the shoulders
and an increased curve in the thoracic, or upper back region. As a result, the
student may experience back, shoulder and neck pain. A good rule to follow is to
carry no more than 10-15% of one's body weight.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BACKPACK USE
Wear both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder causes a
person to lean to one side to compensate for the uneven weight, curving the
spine. Over time, this can cause lower and upper back pain, strained shoulders
and neck, and even functional scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. Teenage
girls are especially susceptible to scoliosis.
Distribute weight evenly across your back. The more spread out a load is,
the less strain it puts on any one part of your body. Load pack so the heaviest
items are right next to your back.
Snug shoulder straps so the pack fits close to the upper part of your
back. The further a backpack's load is from your back, the more it pulls you
backward and strains muscles between your shoulders.
Use the waist belt, and side/chest straps. Keep the load close to your
body. Keeping the pack close to your hips also shifts "work" to your
The bottom should rest in the curve of your lower back and the top touch
just below the big knob on your neck (vertebral prominence).
Neatly pack your backpack, and try to keep items in place.
Try to make frequent trips to your locker, between classes, to replace
Send mail to Rich@chiropediatrics.com with questions, or comments, about this web site.
Copyright © 1996 Richard
Last modified: March 22, 2002
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