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We all want our children to do well in school. We make sure they bring home their books and do their homework at night. We make sure they have their books packed away in their backpacks and ready to be taken to classes the next day. However, what we may be overlooking is a threat to our children's spine more sinister than any fall off the swing set or sports injury.
Recently scientists have begun to examine the effects of carrying heavy backpacks full of books. What they have discovered is that carrying heavy backpacks may pose a serious threat to your child's spinal development. A team of researchers at Auburn University has studied 421 students and found that backpacks carried with one strap promoted lateral spinal bending and shoulder elevation. Additionally, they noted carrying a backpack with both straps promoted significant forward lean of head and trunk. You may have seen this postural condition, commonly known as the “Hunch Back”, in your child already.
The scientists stated that the average backpack represented 17% of the child's body weight. If we apply this standard to adults, it would be the equivalent of the average 150 pound adult carrying a 26-pound backpack!! The researchers went on to conclude that the daily physical stresses associated with carrying a backpack on one shoulder significantly alters the posture and gait of the youth. The authors of the study also stated that the effects of weight bearing induced stress is a serious issue when considering children and youths who are experiencing physical growth and motor development. I know that none of us want our children to be subject to such issues, especially going to or from school.
If your child does use a backpack to carry books there are things that they can do to reduce the physical stress associated with carrying backpacks:
1. Make sure that the weight of the book-bag does not exceed more than 15% of the child's total body weight. This is especially important for children in grades 1-4. A simple weight scale can help you determine this percentage.
2. Avoid using backpacks or athletic bags that have only one strap.
3. Ensure that children wear both straps on their shoulders to distribute weight evenly. This will significantly reduce book-bag carrying stresses.
4. Use the waist belt at all times.
5. Use of a roller bag is preferred, as long as there are not a lot of stairs in the school.
Finally, it is important to have your child’s spine evaluated to make sure it is in good working alignment. Setting a weight-bearing backpack on an already misaligned spine can cause risk of injury. Simply call your local chiropractor and set up a spinal evaluation that includes your child’s percentage of backpack to body weight measurements.
Scott Dubrul, DC has been in private practice in the San Luis Obispo area for more than 18 years. Dr. Dubrul’s chiropractic clinic is dedicated to guiding a patient from pain relief to optimal function. Since 1993, he’s been encouraging patients to examine their internal motivations to achieve overall wellness. Through an objective examination, he educates patients and provides tools to make improvements. For more information about how Dr. Dubrul can help you achieve better overall health and wellness, please visit www.powersourcechiropractic.com or contact email@example.com.