Scoliosis and backpacks

When the honeymoon is over does your child’s backpack stand up to the challenge?

Ahhhhh… the new school year is now in full gear – new school shoes have been broken in, uniforms have endured their first stains, and everyday more and more it seems the shiny new back pack begins to suffer the effects of whopping homework overload!

Why should I be concerned?Scoliosis and backpacks

Did you know (as per the American Physical Therapy Association) your child’s backpack should never exceed 10-15% of his or her body weight? For the average 10 year-old child it’s the equivalent of 10 lbs!

These days it is not uncommon for the average child to carry 22-27% of their bodyweight in their backpack – an excess of 12-15% over the recommended guidelines.

This extra weight creates unnecessary strain on a child’s spine, can lead to serious health issues down the line and, in the case of children with scoliosis – can worsen a childs’ scoliosis curve.

How does this happen?

A heavy backpack can pull a child backwards making him or her overcompensate by bending forward or arching their backs, in turn compressing the spine. If your child likes to wear his or her backpack in the “over one shoulder sling” your child may tend to lean far to the one side to offset the weight of the heavy backpack. Repeated use overtime leads to poor posture, muscle strain and pain in the back, neck and shoulder areas.

Additionally, backpacks with tight narrow straps that dig into the skin can block circulation and nerve function, resulting in tingling, numbness and weakness in your child’s arms and hands.

What should I look for?

Check your child’s backpack for the following safety elements:

  • Make sure the backpack is lightweight- many backpacks, though fashionable, may be made of much heavier construction than is necessary, i.e. chains and other adornments
  • Padding- a padded back can make the load more comfortable while protecting from sharp objects poking out of the back
  • Waist straps- a backpack with a waist strap helps the weight distribute more evenly
  • Multiple compartments- help the weight of a backpack distribute more evenly
  • Padded shoulder straps – Make sure the backpack has two wide padded shoulder straps this will protect the skin in the shoulder area and lessen any blocking of circulation

What else can I do?

  • Weigh your child’s backpack- make sure it doesn’t exceed 10-15% of his or her body weight
  • When packing your child’s backpack- pack heavier items towards the back and evenly distribute smaller items in compartments
  • Adjust the straps to fit tight against the body

Always encourage your child to tell you about any discomfort concerning his backpack and pay attention to any symptoms he or she may be experiencing.