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Backpack Misuse & Chronic Back Pain

Back pain is pervasive among American adults, but a new and disturbing trend is emerging. Young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the use of book bags or back carriers resulted in over 6,500 injuries in 2000 alone.

Over the past 10 years, the chiropractic profession is noticing a marked increase in the number of young children who are complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain. This new back pain trend among youngsters isn't surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks— often slung over just one shoulder. A 2002 study conducted in Italy found that the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man, or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman. Of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result.

Other studies have shown that slinging a backpack over one shoulder could exacerbate the curvature of the spine in scoliosis patients.

According to the ACA, preliminary results of studies being conducted show that the longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for a curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself. The question that needs to be addressed next is, Does it ever return to normal?

The results of these types of studies are especially important as more and more school districts— many of them in urban areas— remove lockers from the premises, forcing students to carry their books with them all day long.

What Can You Do?

  • Make sure your child's backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.
  • The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.
  • A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child's back.
  • Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry— and the heavier the backpack will be.
  • Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause the disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
  • Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child's shoulders.
  • The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child's body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
  • If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child's teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.

What We Can Do for You...

If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, call your doctor of chiropractic. Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In addition, doctors of chiropractic can also prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.

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Testimonial

I was referred to Heartwood Holistic by some friends. Their exact words were, "Dr. Drew is amazing! And Debbie at the front desk is wonderful!" They were right! At most doctor's offices you go in for the initial visit and fill out pages of paper work only to be asked those questions again once you get seen by the physician. Not so here. Dr. Drew zeroed in on what was ailing me and presented a plan of action by the end of my first visit. I've been a regular and don't plan on changing up anytime soon. I look forward to my visits there 1.) for the relief 2.) the staff. Everyone is so friendly and they actually care about your wellness. Alexis is a special treat! She is very committed to her craft and just a wonderful person. Ask her for the Moxa and just relax on her amethyst heating pad. Dreamy!! You can't go wrong here. Looking forward to my Rolfing session with Aaron. Thank you, HHH family!

Ashley D,  August 2017


I am so thrilled to have come across this little gem of a place! I had the pleasure of meeting this beautiful couple this past week and was able to get in to the clinic for a chiropractic adjustment. I currently live about an hour away from the wellness center, but I'll be making the drive just to see them for my health needs. Dr. Drew was so attentive and thorough. He really listened to me and we discussed what I was accustomed to as far as treatment goes. He takes careful time with each client and truly cares about your health. After 15 years of visiting many different chiropractic doctors, I can quickly get a read on the type of care I'll receive. I immediately felt at ease and confident with him. I was able to chat with his lovely wife, Alexis, as well and am anxious to set up an appointment with her. This is no ordinary wellness center. They offer so many options for treating a vast amount of health challenges. They see and treat the body as a whole, which is the only way to find true health.

Kari P, February 2017

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