Prevent Back Pain Caused by Backpack Misuse
you've seen it happen before at some point in your life. Your dad bends
down to pick up a crate of firewood, and instead of lifting with his
knees like he should, lifts with his back, and then suddenly ... stops.
As you come running over to see what happened, your father tells you to
tell your mother to call the doctor; he threw his back out.
Now, as an
adult, you're starting to get the small symptoms that may cause you the
same pain that dear ol' dad suffered thirty years ago. One of the
biggest reasons for chronic back pain in adults is improper posture and
uneven weight distribution, particularly when carrying backpacks.
"Back pain is
pervasive in our society," American Chiropractic Association (ACA)
President James A. Mertz said. "Eighty percent of all Americans will
suffer from it at some point in their lives, and 50 percent of us will
suffer from low-back pain this year alone. Much of this suffering is
brought on by bad habits initiated during our younger years —
such as carrying overweight backpacks to school."
Direct Merchants discovered in a survey that more than 96 percent of 8-
to 12-year-old children will carry a backpack to school, and one-third
will wear it improperly. Also, a study in Italy found that children
carry backpacks that are far too heavy for them, in relation to their
the ACA offers the following advice to help prevent future back pain
for your children, and temporary back pain for you (if you use a
child's backpack should weigh no more than 5 percent to 10 percent of
his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to
bend forward to support the weight.
backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A
backpack that is too low causes increased weight on the shoulders, thus
forcing the individual to lean forward.
compartments help position the contents effectively. Place pointy or
bulky objects away from the part of the pack that will rest on the
child's back. Uneven surfaces cause painful blisters.
- Buy the best-designed backpack available for the child. Bigger packs mean more stuff, which equals heavier weight.
- Wear both
shoulder straps, because carrying the pack by one shoulder can cause
disproportionate weight distribution, leading to neck and muscle
spasms, and low back pain.
- Unpadded straps can dig into your child's shoulders, so buy a pack with padded straps.
straps fit to your child's body. Shoulder straps that are too loose can
cause the backpack to dangle and eventually will cause spinal
misalignment and pain.
- If the
pack is still too heavy, ask his/her teachers if the child can leave
the heaviest books at school and only bring home hand-outs or
- Look into packs-on-wheels if back pain persists.
The ACA also offered this advice for hikers wearing hiking-style backpacks:
getting fitted for a backpack, the pack should accommodate your dorsal
length — from your upper back to the bottom of your ribs —
and not your entire body.
hiking, the shoulder straps should rest in the center of each clavicle
or collarbone. Shoulder straps are for increased stability and not for
carrying weight. You should be able to fit two fingers, comfortably,
under the straps.
- Hip belts should fit around the hips and above the pelvis, where your pants would rest, to carry most of the load in the pack.
- Pack the
heaviest items on the sides of the pack or in the bottom portion. Too
much weight on top can make you top-heavy and cause a disproportionate
weight shift, resulting in back pain.
Address: American Chiropractic Association, 1701 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209; (800) 986-4636, AmeriChiro@aol.com, www.amerchiro.org.