If you have a child who goes to school, try wearing his backpack around one day. You could be shocked to discover the heavy load your child has to carry around five days a week. The heavier the backpack, the more damage it can do to your child. Typically, kids load backpacks too much, making them too heavy to be safe, according to studies conducted by members of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at San Diego.
When a child walks around with a heavy backpack, she can compromise her posture and damage her spine. According to Medical News Today, children shouldn’t carry a backpack that weighs more than 9 lbs. Any heavier and children fatigue when walking, and when children fatigue, they don’t adjust their gait as adults do. Instead, they tend to drop their head forward, which puts stress on the body. This uneven posture, if continued, can lead to spine damage.
Dr. Heidi Orloff, professor of exercise science at the University of Kansas, said on Medical News Today that when kids were spot-checked, researchers found that the kids were carrying backpack loads between 20 and 25 lbs. Some of this was schoolbooks and some was just extra stuff. Whatever is in the packs, upwards of 20 lbs. is just too much for a child’s small frame.
What can specifically happen to the spine is disc compression and spinal curvature, according to the Spine Health website. If your child reports lower back pain, this could indicate spinal problems. Back problems in childhood can carry over to adulthood.
It’s even worse if your child carries her backpack using only one strap, which is what typically happens, according to the San Diego study. By only using one strap, your child obstructs blood flow to his shoulder and arm, which can lead to shoulder fatigue and a loss of fine motor control.
What to Do
A good rule of thumb is to keep the backpack weight to no more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight. Instruct your child about the importance of wearing the backpack properly, using both straps. You might also want to speak to your child’s teacher about limiting the amount of books your child must take home.