For most families, one of the focal points of back-to-school time is picking out the perfect backpack. While the kids focus on the aesthetics – the colors, amount of zippers, and extras that come with it – it’s your responsibility as a parent to focus on the function. The average McGraw-Hill standard textbook weighs 3-4 lbs. across age groups of students. Combine 4 to 7 of those textbooks with other supplies like notebooks, pencils, and a calculator and your child’s backpack is suddenly a heavy load to bear. If you have a student-athlete, you can expect additional weight added by a duffel bag of sports equipment and practice clothes.
A cross-sectional study of Italian students in 2016 showed that out of 5,318 students, 60% of those students experienced back pain related to the load and extended time of use of their backpack. In particular, adolescent girls seemed to struggle the most with chronic back pain due to the need to tote a heavy load throughout the day. Due to the excessive strain placed on the shoulders and lower back to carry these loads, some students can even experience spinal compression throughout their schooling if not properly supported and treated. While parent’s don’t have control over what textbooks teachers assign their students, there are a few things they can do to help their children avoid the pains of carrying a heavy backpack load.
Finding a backpack that fits both form and function for your child is no easy task, but it isn’t impossible. If you’re trying to find the right fit for your back-to-schooler, there are a few key elements to look for:
– Wide, padded straps provide extra support and relieves strain on the shoulders.
– Multiple compartments to prevent weight from being centralized to one area.
– Adjustable straps so that the weight does not sit more than 4 inches below the waist.
– An additional support strap across the waist or chest can also help lighten the load.
*Bonus Tip* Make sure your child wears their backpack with both straps to balance the weight! Try to avoid messenger bags that can put a strain on a single shoulder.
The recommended weight for a student’s backpack is between 10 and 20 percent of their total body weight. Unfortunately, it is hard for schools to oversee the issuance of books and supplies based on this guideline, because growing kids in a single age group tend to fall in a wide range of shapes and sizes! That doesn’t mean your child has to suffer the consequences of being smaller with a heavier load.
Talk to your administrators and teachers about the possibility of acquiring two sets of books for your students – one that can stay at home and one that can stay in the classroom or locker. This will alleviate the need for the child to tote around the heavy books all day as well as to and from school. You might also be able to access some textbooks with an online version, further eliminating the need for your child to carry their books all the way home.
If you find that your student is still struggling with back pain as a result of a heavy backpack, lack of back support in desks, or any other challenge that going back to school presents, we’re here to help. We can provide a gentle spinal manipulation that can realign your child’s back and help them find relief. It’s also a great measure to improve the immune system – an extra line of defense against all those fresh germs!
The writing team at Tuck Chiropractic.
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