Young Scholars Hauling a Damaging Load?

Kid Scholars’ Back Pain Caused by Weighty Backpacks

One of the most common necessities of a student scholar is the backpack. The intention of backpacks is to carry books, writing utensils, and maybe a lunch, earning the other title “book bag.”

Nowadays, we frequently see laptop computers, phones, clothes and other assorted items crammed into a backpack, too.

According to USA Today, the backpack industry is a $2 billion business. Backpacks are marketed at various levels ranging from a small, no-frills $15 pack to a $695 pack with a built-in solar panel to charge electronic devices.

Unfortunately, in the attempt to drive business, health concerns and safety are cast aside.

Backpacks have blossomed into a style accessory. The “look” that scholars are trying to attain, however, can damage their nerve supply and overall health.

Damaging Spines

An article in the journal Orthopedics discussed several studies that dealt with the load of backpacks and the structural spinal deformity that takes place as a result. The combined studies were able to link both backpack weight and the amount of time carrying the backpack to structural changes in both the cervical spine and the shoulder.[1. Chansirinukor W, Wilson D, Grimmer K, Dansie B. Effects of backpacks on students: measurement of cervical and shoulder posture. Aust J Physiother. 2001; 47:110-116.]

Heavy loads placed in backpacks forces the wearer’s head and neck to crane forward, which can cause forward head posture. Forward head posture places direct pressure on the front of the spinal cord, thereby altering neural pathways and normal physiology

Another study demonstrated the harmful effects of a single-strapped backpack versus a double-strapped backpack. Researchers measured a sizeable difference in gait analysis when comparing the two.[2. Cottalorda J, Rahmani A, Diop M, Gautheron V, Ebermeyer E, Belli A. Influence of school bag carrying on gait kinetics. J Pediatr Orthop B. 2003; 12:357-364.] Their study showed a lateral bending of the spine and a rising of the shoulder in the single-strapped backpacks. These packs easily are a definite cause of back pain in children.

Further study in the load of the backpack on a child’s spine demonstrated shocking results.

Backpack weight greater than 10% of the child’s weight increases forward-leaning posture, decreases lung volume, and alters normal gait.[3. Hong Y, Brueggemann GP. Changes in gait pattern in 10-year-old boys with increasing loads when walking on a treadmill. Gait Posture. 2000; 11:254-259.]

Another study demonstrated that carrying a backpack weight of more than 20% of the child’s body weight caused back pain within the previous year. [4. Viry P, Creveuil C, Marcelli C. Nonspecific back pain in children. A search for associated factors in 14-year-old schoolchildren. Rev Rhum. 1999; 66:381-388.]

Lightening the Load

Backpack safety and education is vital in the health of children.

Completely avoid backpacks with single straps because of their effects on the spine. Parents should instead obtain double-strapped backpacks. Parents can also push for the increased use of school lockers, which lighten the burden on children’s shoulders.Back pain and backpacks in school children

Furthermore, the load in the backpack should be kept to less than 10 percent of the child’s body weight in order to avoid overloading the spine, which causes harmful posture and creates abnormal physiology.

Because backpacks are a necessity for most children, it is vital to take action immediately to reduce the possible effects of an overloaded backpack. Have your scholars screened for spinal damage and postural abnormalities, as both are integral to long-term health.

Find a screening today.