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Avoid Pain from Backpack Use

Back pain is pervasive among Canadian 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 Ontario Chiropractic Association.
In fact, the U.S.Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that
backpack-related injuries sent more than 7,000 people
to the emergency room in 2001 alone.
“In my own practice, I have noticed a marked increase
in the number of young children who are complaining
about back, neck and shoulder pain,” said Dr. George Traitses.
“The first question I ask these patients is, ‘Do you
carry a backpack to school?’ Almost always, the
answer is ‘yes.’”
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. According to Dr.
Traitses, a recent study conducted in Italy found that
the average child carries a backpack that would be the
equivalent of a 39-pound burden for the average adult
man, or a 29-pound load for the average adult woman.
Of those children in the study who carried heavy backpacks
to school, 60 percent had experienced back
pain as a result.
Dr. Traitses also reports that preliminary results of studies
being conducted in France 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.
The problem has become so widespread, that the
California State Assembly recently passed legislation
that would force school districts to develop ways of
reducing the weight of students’ backpacks. Similar
legislation is being considered in New Jersey as well.
The OCA suggests limiting the backpack’s weight to no
more than 10 percent of the child’s body weight and
urging the use of ergonomically correct backpacks.

What Can You Do?
Dr. Traitses offers the following tips to help prevent the
needless pain that backpack misuse could cause the
students in your household.
• Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no
more than 10 percent of his or her body
weight. A heavier backpack will cause your
child to bend forward to support the weight on
the back, rather than the shoulders.
• 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. Nonpadded
straps are uncomfortable, and can dig
into your child’s shoulders.
• The shoulder straps should be adjustable so
the backpack to fit to your child’s body. Straps
that are too loose can cause the backpack to
dangle, causing 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. Or
encourage your local school district to purchase
textbooks on CD-Rom.
• Although the use of rollerpacks - or backpacks
on wheels - has become popular in recent
years, the OCA is now recommending that they
be used cautiously and on a limited basis by
only those students who are not physically able
to carry a backpack. Some school districts
have begun banning the use of rollerpacks
because they clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous
trips and falls.
Chiropractic Care Can Help
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.

Photo courtesy of Samsonite Chiropak™

For more information on health and safety visit the Ontario Chiropractic Association
Web site at www.chiropractic.on.ca or call 1877-327-2273.
Dr. George Traitses, 416-499-5656, www.infinite-health.com

Dr. George I. Traitses     8/26/2013


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