It is that time of year again when the first school bells will be ringing alerting students that it is the season for learning. Parents will be waving them off with a sigh of relief that the inevitable summer boredom and sibling fighting has come to an end!
One of the most important tools of school is the backpack. Children are not immune to muscle joint pain and it is important to have a well fitted back pack to prevent problems. Parents are challenged every year by their child to find the most unique and coolest pack ever. Cool is important, however there are some key things to look for when purchasing that back pack:
Proper straps are a must for a back pack. According to the Canadian Chiropractic Association, the pack should never extend past the waistline by 4 inches. Look for a back pack that has adjustable straps and make sure when fitting the pack to your child that the pack is snug against their spine. If the pack is too low and too far away from the spine the child ends up slouching forward, putting extra strain on the neck and mid-back.
Also comfortable padded straps are a must. A great test for this is to squeeze the foam in the straps. The padding is good if there is a slow re-shaping and that the padding is firm. Children and youth should always wear two straps to evenly distribute the weight across the shoulders and back. Avoid buying one strap packs.
A hip strap is great with larger packs to help distribute the weight off the shoulders and onto the hips.
Children should only be carrying 10% to 15% of their body weight in their back pack. That means if your child weighs 100 lbs, they should only have 10 to 15 lbs in their pack. The spine is made up of 33 bones which can be compressed unnaturally if your child’s backpack is too heavy or worn incorrectly. An unsafe or heavy backpack can create issues with posture that continue even after the backpack is no longer worn.
Avoid back packs made of heavy materials like leather or packs with a lot of accessories that add weight. Multiple pockets are a great option so that weight can be distributed evenly in the pack.
Even better, is finding a back pack that has wheels and an extendable handle. These are starting to become more available and in a lot of great designs.
Look for a well built pack made of synthetic fibers, like nylon. This material is more resistant to moisture and is lightweight. Look for full sewn seems that are stitched without any material ends exposed. Heavy durable zippers are a must, as they are the most common thing to fail in a back pack. Test the zippers before purchasing and make sure they don't catch on any materials. Avoid Velcro closures as they are not as durable as zippers.
Back to school is a wonderful time of the year for kids, and often parents too! Purchase a safe back pack for your child, don't let them pack it too heavy, and adjust the straps to get the correct fit for them. All of this will prevent extra unwanted stress on their spine and muscles.
Activity Fact: According to the British Journal of Pain, studies have shown that the prevalence of low back pain in schoolchildren ranges from 25% to 55% in those aged between 10 and 15 years.
Dr. Mark Perrett
Dr. Perrett is a Canadian-trained chiropractor and has owned a multidisciplinary clinic in Neepawa for the past twenty years. His mission is to keep people active and help them achieve optimal health. He is an avid long-distance runner and enjoys soccer and strength-training. He is on the executive team for the Canadian Chiropractic College Board of Governors, Chairman of the licensing committee for the Manitoba Chiropractors Association, a board member and avid fundraiser for World Spine Care, and is involved in the Canadian Chiropractic Guidelines Initiative. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on facebook (@neepawachiropracticcentre), Instagram (neepawachiropractic) and Twitter (@npwchiro).