According to the data of WHO – The World Health Organization, back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world. In the past chronic back pain was linked only to adult people, but in recent studies it has been related to children as well.
Jonathan Cluett, MD, states the following:
“Back pain has been found to occur in children and adolescents at a rate of about 10-30 percent of the population each year! While it may be unexpected to you, back pain is probably not as uncommon as you think. Some of the reasons why back pain in kids may be so common include higher body weights of children and higher rates of obesity, higher intensity and year-round sports activities, and the increasing weight of backpacks worn by young students at the school.”
According to the findings of Spine Health Institute:
“In a large study, over 33% of children between the ages of 11 and 14 years old noted back pain. The students that carried heavier backpacks reported more back pain than those that carried a lighter load. Heavy backpacks are believed to increase lumbar disk compression, lumbar curvature, and muscle fatigue, all of which may lead to back pain.”
Spine Health Institute warns what the heavyweight carried in backpacks of an extended period of time can do to the back:
Rounding of the shoulders,
Distorting the natural curves in the middle and lower backs,
Causing muscle strain and irritation to the spine joints and the rib cage,
Making a person to lean forward thereby lowering balance and prone to falling.
Another and also the biggest issue with carrying heavy weight on your back is the long-term effect of constantly compensating for a heavy load.
The renowned expert, John J. Triano, DC, Ph.D., maintains:
“Habitually carrying backpacks over one shoulder will make muscles strain to compensate for the uneven weight. The spine leans to the opposite side, stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other. This type of muscle imbalance can cause muscle strain, muscle spasm, and back pain in the short term and speed the development of back problems later in life if not corrected.
A heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles, contributing to a headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain, and/or neck and arm pain.”
On this issue, Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, agrees:
“Over time, the amount of strain that we put on our bodies due to oversized bags can cause some pretty serious pain and even long-term issues like muscle spasms or a pinched nerve.”
Hence, the probable solution for this issue was the use of off-the-shoulder bags. But, the well-known chiropractor Dr. Caleb Spreiter from Oklahoma says that these bags do not solve the problem as: “We’re creatures of habit and tend to carry things with the same arm.”
He does not recommend using bags with thin straps, and when carrying a heavy weight one should alternate it between the shoulders. The thing that can be of great help in avoiding back pain is daily stretching and as well as resistance training shoulder and upper back exercises that can strengthen the muscles.
There is still no scientific evidence if the use of heavy backpacks is the cause of long-term back pain in children and adolescents, but most chiropractors and doctors advise making the needed changes in preventing the occurrence of any side-effects.
Nonetheless, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following precautions:
The bottom of the backpack should be at your child’s waist.
Purchase a backpack with a padded back and wide and padded shoulder straps.
Both shoulder straps should be used when the child wears the backpack.
The items that are not of highest importance should be removed from the backpack, and the heavier items put closest to the center of the back.
Rolling backpack could be a good option for your child.
If you have the following symptoms, you should seek an advice from a medical expert:
Numbness or “pins and needles” sensation
Unexplained weight changes
Back pain in a child under the age of 4, or in adults over the age of 70
Pain after a previous injury or trauma
Known history of cancer, osteoporosis, IV use, low immune function, or chronic steroid use