Children are experiencing more back, shoulder, and neck pain sooner in life than the U.S. has ever experienced. The backpack your child carries may be the problem.

Long-Term Effects

Some chiropractors say that 75% to 80% of teenagers they treat experience problems related to backpacks. With millions of children carrying backpacks in the U.S., doctors worry that heavier bags are going to result in more serious chronic lower back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain in the future.

Why Are Bags Heavier?

Students are carrying more weight in their backpacks for these reasons:

1. More homework is being assigned, which results in heavier backpacks.

2. Time between classes is decreasing, so students carry more in their bags instead of stopping off at a locker.

3. School days are longer and students are participating in more activities. This means more equipment is carried and students wear a backpack more often.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, a backpack should not exceed 15% of a child’s weight. However, a 2001 study reported that 55% of students they studied carried weight that exceeded this. Of those, a third reported back pain. Today, it is recommended a backpack be no more than 5% to 10% of the weight.

Warning Signs

If you see these signs, make adjustments to the backpack weight, how your child is using it, and choose a different backpack.

1. Back, neck, shoulder, and knee pain
2. Strap marks on the shoulder
3. Sensations in the arms of tingling or numbness
4. Difficulty putting the backpack on or removing it
5. Bending or hunching to shift weight

The Right Backpack and Usage

A proper backpack is essential. Consider this advice:

1. Find the right size and fit. A backpack should fit between the lower back and the top of the shoulders.
2. Straps should be wide, adjustable, and padded.
3. For older children, consider chest straps and a hip belt.
4. Find a padded back.
5. Choose a backpack with compartments to distribute weight.

When you find the right backpack, encourage your child to properly use it. This means wearing it on both shoulders with tight straps. It should not hang more than four inches below the waist.

How a Chiropractor Can Help

Carrying a backpack should not be painful. If your child is showing signs of lower back pain, neck, or shoulder problems, call a chiropractor today to design an exercise program that will strengthen muscles and improve posture.