“CAN MY CHILD’S HEAVY BACKPACK CAUSE SPINAL INJURY?”

 
 
Seeing your little grade-schooler walking home with a large, loaded backpack can be a comical, turtle-like sight. However, the moment you lift that backpack for yourself, you can feel the burden your child has been carrying on his developing spine.
 
A 2010 study entitled “The Effect of Backpacks on the Lumbar Spine in Children: A Standing Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study” confirmed what parents’ intuition has told them for years: “Backpack loads are responsible for a significant amount of back pain in children, which in part, may be due to changes in lumbar disc height or curvature.”
 
 
What is lumbar asymmetry?

Lumbar asymmetry is the presence of a curvature of the spine. You may recall getting tested for it once a year in grade school. The condition should be monitored because it can turn into scoliosis. Most cases are mild, but severe scoliosis can be quite disabling.

 
 
“HOW HEAVY IS TOO HEAVY?”
 
It’s best to keep it at no more than 10% of your child’s body weight. In their study, the researchers related that more than 92% of children in the U.S. typically carry a backpack that is 10% to 22% of their total body weight. Likewise 37% of children ages 11 to 14 years reported back pain, which the majority attributing to carrying a school backpack.
 
In the study, three boys and five girls of about 11 years of age were given MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of the lumbar spine while standing. Scans were repeated with the addition of backpacks weighing approximately 10%, 20%, and 30% of their body weight. The increased backpack loads significantly compressed lumbar disc heights. The doctors also noticed increased lumbar asymmetry with heavier loads. The young subjects also reported an increase in pain as the loads increased.
 
 
“HOW CAN I FIX THIS?”
 
Telling your child’s school to “go light on the homework” may not be an option. After all, you don’t want to curtail your child’s education. However, there are solutions.
 
The Right Size, The Right Way
It’s best if your child’s backpack is no more than 10% of his or her body weight. Also, select a backpack that is the correct size and has padded shoulder straps. Make sure that the bag is worn high and doesn’t sway when the child walks. Using the backpack’s hip belt can alleviate some strain to neck and shoulder muscles.
 
Wheeled Backpacks
See if your child’s school allows wheeled backpacks. Even if it’s not technically allowed, a doctor’s note may allow you to bypass that rule.
 
Use The Locker
Encourage your child to visit their locker during the day to swap out books, so that they’re carrying only the books they need.
 
Always Use Both Straps
It takes a moment longer. It perhaps looks less cool in the school hallways. Nevertheless, carrying a backpack on one shoulder (or using a messenger bag) may result in bad posture, strain and pain.
 
 
“MY CHILD IS ALREADY EXPERIENCING BACK PAIN”
 
Statistics show that with the majority of children the pain is resolved within two years when treated. With the minority who experience recurring pain, they did not receive the proper treatment from a qualified medical practitioner, so their pain developed into an unfortunate chronic condition.
 
Datta Endoscopic Back Surgery and Pain Center offers outpatient procedures to diagnose and treat lumbar pain in children. Typically, for children the best options are conservative care, including use of physical therapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Follow-up studies are necessary to see if the response to the treatments are encouraging. Usually, the prognosis is good, and children can recover even faster than adults.
 
For more information, please explore our site or contact the Datta Endoscopic office nearest you.
 
 

Dr. Sukdeb Datta of Datta Endoscopic is a highly regarded and widely published specialist. Dr. Datta’s clinical interests have been wide ranging and focused on finding innovative solutions to complex clinical problems associated with chronic pain and spine issues. He believes in constantly evolving and intellectually advancing the field by incorporating the best clinical research and practice using the appropriate evidence-based approach and at the same time incorporating the best in translational pain research.

 This blog should not take the place of in-person medical treatment. Consult Datta Endoscopic or your physician for a personalized medical diagnosis and treatment plan.

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