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Posted on 09-08-2017

Backpacks & Your Spine

Now that school in Mississauga is back in session, we thought it would be a good idea to remind you about the effects that backpacks can have on your spine and posture. Back and neck pain are becoming more prevalent in the younger generations, and improper backpack use can definitely be a part of the problem. Current research has shown us exactly how children in school can be affected in a variety of ways by improper backpack use: 

- Multiple research studies have shown that when children carry backpacks that are too heavy, they are more likely to develop musculoskeletal pain. This in turn, leads to change and adaptation of their posture in a negative way. Common symptoms are neck pain, back pain and headaches. 

- A study of 270 children found that those who reported having neck and/or low back pain had poorer performance than the children who were asymptomatic. Another study found that low back pain was the third most common form of pain interfering with schoolwork and recreational activities. Therefore, school performance and back pain are significantly and negatively related. 

- Research has shown that 61.4% of children are presented with backpacks that weigh more than their spines can handle. The Federal Consumer Product Safety commission calculated that carrying a 12-pound backpack to and from school and lifting it 10 times a day for an entire year puts a cumulative load on a child’s spine of 21,600 pounds. That is equivalent to six mid-sized cars! 

- Incorrect postural patterns that begin during the school-age years of life are more likely to persist as unhealthy lifestyle habits into adulthood. In addition to proper backpack use, postural education and training will be beneficial to prevent such unhealthy habits at an early age. 

As presented in a prior blog, here are some helpful tips to ensure that you are using your backpacks properly: 

Choose the Proper Backpack  

Choose a lightweight, but durable backpack, usually made of vinyl or canvas. Make sure that the shoulder straps are wide so that the weight is nicely distributed, and make sure the straps and back of the backpack are padded for comfort. Having a backpack with a hip or waist strap will add more support. Check to make sure that the straps are adjustable to customize for each individual. Using the straps will help bring the bag closer to your body and keep your centre of gravity in its proper position. Having a backpack with plenty of pockets is useful as well.       

Packing the Backpack Properly 

Once you’ve chosen a proper backpack, make sure that you’re filling it properly. Spend some time to think about your day and pack only what is essential for that day. When filling the backpack, don’t put everything into one pocket. Try to distribute the weight evenly from the front to back and from side to side. The general rule for packing your bag is to only carry a weight that is no more than 10-15% of your body weight. A backpack that is too heavy will not only add direct stress onto your spine, but it shifts your centre of gravity. Your body will start to compensate for the extra weight and over time can worsen your posture.     

Wearing the Backpack 

When putting on the backpack, have it sitting on a counter or table so that you can easily put it on without having to lift it from the ground. It is important to use both shoulder straps to distribute the weight evenly. Never use just one strap no matter how cool it looks.  Again, make sure that the backpack is sitting snugly against your body and not hanging too far and low. A rule of thumb is that you should be able to slide a hand between the backpack and the carrier’s back. If there’s too much space, tighten the straps a little more. 

We strive to see our patient’s at their best, so your Mississauga Chiropractor is here to help correct the misalignments that will improve your posture and, in turn, your energy, concentration and performance. If you’re dealing with any postural issues, do not hesitate to contact us at (905) 821-4951 to book an appointment with us today!

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