Surprising Statistics About Back Pain and Children
When children experience back pain, it can be both disturbing and worrisome for their caregiver, especially since a child’s spine is still developing and is only able to sustain a limited amount of stress without damage being done. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered from a recent study that 75% of children ages 8 to 12 years complained of back pain. Why were these children having back pain? They found that it was due to the weight of their school backpacks.
Based on a recent estimate, 96 percent of children carry too much weight on their backs from school supplies. In fact, 5,000 children go to the emergency department for backpack injuries every year. And, more than 14,000 children receive treatment each year for similar problems. Approximately 60 percent of orthopedic doctors stated that they are providing care to schoolchildren for back pain caused by the weight of their backpacks.
Look at it this way, if the backpack a child is carrying weighs 12 pounds, and the child weighs 60 pounds, the child is carrying a load on their shoulders that is one-fifth of their body weight. As children get older, their book load often increases. A 100-pound middle school student might be carrying a backpack that weighs 30 pounds. This problem is even more urgent if a child has scoliosis, a stress fracture, or muscle strain. Extra weight of this type, combined with the conditions of lifting, twisting, or running with the heavy backpack could worsen and even delay their recovery. What should parents do for their children to avoid further damage to their fragile, growing spines?
How Can Children Avoid Back Pain?
David Marshall, a medical director of sports medicine at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, explains that the issues related to these heavy backpacks not only cause children to miss school but also affect their attendance to physical education classes, after-school activities, and camps. What does he suggest?
Having a second set of books the child doesn’t need to transport back and forth to school would be greatly helpful. Another recommendation he makes is to bring your child to the doctor to have their core strength, back muscles, and posture evaluated.
One alternative that is growing in popularity among parents, are rolling bags so that children can pull the weight rather than bear it on their backs. They are even starting to be considered cool by school age children. There are a few hazards that these kinds of bags present, though. For example students may need to maneuver up stairways, and the bags are also known for being a tripping hazard in the halls of the schools, classrooms, and while travelling with students.
Here are a number of tips that Marshal recommends for helping lighten your child’s burden:
- Using a backpack that includes a chest belt or a padded waist is a great way to distribute the weight more evenly across the entire body.
- A backpack that has multiple compartments is also a great option when trying to distribute the weight more consistently.
- Ensure that your child’s backpack has two wide straps with padding for the shoulders and that they always use both straps.
- Check your child’s pack to be sure they are not carrying excess weight from unnecessary items such as video games, toys, or accumulating finished worksheets.
- A child’s backpack should never be wider than their body.
- The weight of the backpack should never exceed 15% of the child’s body weight. Simply confirm this by using a regular bathroom scale and help your child to recognize what a proper weight feels like so they can determine it for themselves later.
- Metal framed backpacks – similar to the ones that hikers use – are another good way to protect the spine from too much strain. Just make sure these kinds of backpacks are ok on your child’s campus.
- Incorporating core strengthening exercises for your child such as Pilates and weight training, is another way to help your child avoid injury to their lower back and abdominal muscles.
- Showing your child proper lifting technique by teaching them to bend their knees and use both hands to lift the pack to their shoulders, can help prevent injury from the multiple lifts they do on a daily basis.
- When packing the back pack, always place heavier items nearer to the body.
This is a safety inspection checklist to refer to help protect the health of your child’s back:
- No more than 10-15% of body weight
- Abdominal strap in place
- Both shoulder straps with padding being used
- Heavier books placed closest to the back
- Weight of backpack not below the pant line
- Well-lined and padded backpack so as not to be poked by pencils or rulers
Preserving Spine Health to Prevent Back Pain
One more area that should be focused on is determining how healthy your child’s spine is. The assumption is usually that most children have healthy spines, but that’s not always true. The upper cervical spine is vulnerable to injury from trips and falls, sporting accidents, or vehicle accidents. Combine that with a developing spine and you could have an injury that leads to lifelong problems over time.
Here at Premier Family Wellness and Spinal Care in Farmington, Michigan, we care for many school-age patients, closely examining their neck for possible misalignments they may have in this area. When there is need for a correction, we use a method that is gentle and safe for all ages. We do not need to pop or crack the neck to return the bones to their proper placement. Instead, our technique naturally encourages the bones to move back into place with the slightest pressure.
Maintaining the health of your child’s spine with periodic visits to an upper cervical chiropractor can lower the risk of severe injury in the future. Contact us today if you are concerned about your child’s back health.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Perkins call 248-478-6203 or just click the button below area
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.