Are children backpacks the leading cause of back pain in youth?

Our kids have to carry a large load on their backs everyday for almost 14 years, even though text books are getting smaller over time they aren’t getting any less lighter for your 5 year old to bear. If your child complains about how heavy his/her backpack is when they go to school, the reason might be very legitimate and not because they just want you to carry it for them all the way up to the doorsteps.


In 2013 alone, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission cited 5,415 backpack-related injuries treated at emergency rooms. That’s an alarming number of young children that are being treated for injuries relating to something that most of us overlook. The injuries relating to backpacks range from acute back pain to chronic back pain to other types of damage.


Dr. Karen Jacobs a clinical professor of occupational therapy at Boston University and an expert on school ergonomics says “Wearing a backpack incorrectly or wearing one that’s too heavy can be a contributing risk factor for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and pain, especially in the lower back.”


While backpacks are an essential part of a child’s school regime it is always recommended to make sure that the weight of the backpack is not so much that it causes the child to hunch down to support it. Most parents overlook the fact that backpacks are on your child for a large period of time and over the course of a year can result in bad posture and further injuries, which are never a good sign at such a young age.


Dr. Jacobs also added “Injury can occur when a child is trying to adapt to the heavy load by using improper postures, such as leaning forward, arching the back, and leaning to one side.” Therefore it is also the parent’s responsibility to check if your child is struggling with their backpack weights. Taking your child’s health and posture is a priority, so the next time your child complains how heavy their backpack is make sure to observe their posture and maybe try to lift it to check if it causes you any discomfort holding it with your hands. If that is the case, your child may need to cut down on the books they’re carrying and consider getting a locker in school.


Finally another piece of advice to add on to the findings of Dr. Jacobs is that parents should consider purchasing ergonomic bags with padded straps that take of weight load from the shoulder significantly. While back pain in children is still not as common as that in adults, it is a serious issue that has to be addressed by both parents and educational institutions alike.

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