With students of all ages returning to school it is important to address backpack safety. In my 34 years of chiropractic practice I have seen numerous cases where improper use of a backpack caused a young person to develop a painful musculoskeletal problem. This article will discuss safe use of backpacks. It will also give information from a recent research journal about backpacks, their risks and preventive measures to reduce injury.
We all know that a heavy backpack can cause musculoskeletal problems for those carrying them. The neck, mid back and lower back are especially susceptible to injury. If the upper neck is irritated it can also lead to a person developing headaches.
The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, March 2019 published a study showing examinations of 160 students revealed that the average student’s backpack weighs the equivalent of 18% of their body weight, which is above the 10- 15% recommended by experts to reduce the risk for backpack related musculoskeletal pain. Additionally, researchers observed that while wearing a backpack, students adopted a more forward head posture, which can increase the risk for both neck and shoulder pain.
If the backpack is the cause of pain conditions we must address what can be done to correct the situation. Prevention is the key. The first step to take is to minimize the weight carried as much as possible. If a person doesn’t have to carry textbooks at all this would certainly be preferable. To accomplish this, online methods may be of help. Many courses that are found in textbooks are also available online. This would allow a student to keep their textbooks at school and still be able to study at home through cyber means. Along the same lines it might be possible to buy an inexpensive second set of books to keep at home.
If these options aren’t available it is important to address the backpack itself. Look for a backpack with two wide padded straps. Make sure that the straps are tightened so the pack is as close to the body as possible. Encourage the student to use both straps rather than just one. Some backpacks have a waist strap to help distribute the weight more evenly.
Utilize all the compartments of the backpack wisely. It is best to place the heaviest objects in the center of the backpack which will also distribute the weight to the central core of the body providing the safest way of carrying the load.
Encourage the student to tell you if pain develops. It is important not to ignore a student who is having discomfort of their back. It is very common for students of all ages to develop back pain. As a chiropractor, I see young people who have back pain frequently. If pain does develop a chiropractic examination and possible treatment can correct the cause of the pain most of the time.
With a little foresight and prudence, return to school and wearing of a backpack can accomplish what needs to be done without causing physical problems.