With Covid-19 came many changes.
More time at home, more work from home, more school from home.
And now as various states try to navigate work and school balance with the Coronavirus still very much a part of our lives, most schools in Texas are having to balance between virtual learning and face to face instruction. It is very much a reality that your child could be asked at a moment’s notice, to work virtually from home. And because of this looming ‘immediate quarantine’ possibility, many kids are carrying all their schoolbooks, library books and supplies in their backpack.
Sounds like a great plan expect for one concern… those backpacks get heavy.
For me personally, my 13-year-old, has a backpack with multiple books in it, a school issued Chromebook and another bag of gym gear! Great for our district, bad for my child. There is no way she is carrying all that on a daily basis with recuperations on a developing spine. A backpack is handy but can also be unhealthy. The prolonged pull on the shoulders and neck along with the ‘pulling down’ force into the lower back spine all increase the likelihood of near term, or worse yet, long term spine issues that aren’t even on your radar at this point.
4 Important Facts about your child’s spine:
- Your child is still growing until the age of 22 or older
- A healthy spine now helps ensure a healthy future with less back and neck pain
- Poor posture can lead to self esteem issues
- Studies at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center showed overloaded backpacks as the cause of shoulder pain and poor posture in kids
5 Signs and symptoms that your child’s backpack may be too heavy:
- Complaints of neck pain, back pain or headaches
- Child is hunched forward to offset the weight of the pack
- Posture issues such as one shoulder higher than the other or a head forward posture
- Spinal misalignments as determined by a chiropractor
- Excessive muscle tension in the neck or upper back/shoulders
Solutions to help ease the heavy load:
- Get a backpack with a lot of padding on the shoulders to buffer the bounce of the bag as the child walks – or runs to school or class!
- Find a pack with a waist strap which ensures it stays closer to the body while wearing it
- Consider a pull behind backpack so your child can wear or pull the pack as appropriate
- When your child lifts the backpack ensure he or she is facing it and lifts with their legs
3 Primary Considerations:
- Pack heavier items toward the back of the pack. The closer to the spine the heavy items are the less force it puts into the spine and the more your legs can help carry the load
- Only carry what is needed for the day
- See if you can leave some items at the school (confirm with the school that you would be able to pick up items if your child gets separated from the items due to quarantine)
- Do not allow the backpack to get heavier than 15% of your child’s body weight
- Teach your child to lift it with 2 hands while facing it
- Teach your child to lift with his/her legs. i.e. bend the knees to lift it or you can lift it and place it on your child’s shoulders
- Use both shoulder straps
- Make sure the pack is age appropriate in size so that it stays above the waist at its’ lowest point, thus keeping the load closer to the spine
- Use a pull behind a backpack or at least one with an option to pull it on occasion
AS the old saying goes: “As the twig is bent so grows the tree.” You child is still growing and if you want to give her the best chance of not ‘enjoying’ the same back and neck pain you have then be smart now and hopefully you can help her avoid the spine issues later.
Options if your child already shows signs or symptoms of backpack related issues.
- See a local chiropractor near you
- Consult your primary care doctor
- Visit a physical therapist