Yes, back packs can place a lot of stress and tension to the
neck, shoulder muscles and spine. Heavy backpacks can also contribute to the problems associated with scoliosis, which is an abnormal curvature of the spine. A recent study conducted in Italy found that the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman. Of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result. In 2001, backpacks were the cause of 7,000 emergency room visits and numerous complaints of muscle spasms, neck and shoulder pain. The problem has become so widespread, in fact, the California State Assembly passed legislation that would force school districts to develop ways of reducing the weight of students’ backpacks. Similar legislation is being considered in New Jersey as well with more states to likely follow.
The damage these heavy backpacks cause really depends on how
much weight is being carried. Most kids nowadays carry many books in their backpacks and can weigh 20-30 lbs. If a child weighs 100 lbs. and that child is carrying a 20 lb. backpack that is 20% of that child’s body weight. That is too much weight. If your child walks to the school bus stop or walks to school that is too heavy of a load to be carrying around. If they don’t carry the back pack the way it was designed to be worn then all the weight is being transferred to
only one shoulder. Even if they are being carried on both shoulders the backpacks are too heavy and cause many children to lean way forward which cause stress to the spine and muscles.
Most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their packs. So if your child weighs 100 lbs., your child’s back pack should not weigh more
than 15% or 15 lbs. Check out this website for more information on how you can minimize some of the problems associated with backpacks: http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/consumerawareness/a/backpacktips.htm
What can you do?
There are different types of back packs and book bags to consider. Shoulder bags are popular with some kids but place too much strain
because they only have one strap. If your child wants one of those bags make sure it is to be used ONLY if they don’t have lots of books to be carrying around. A good back pack should have wide padded straps and several compartments to distribute the weight better. The
straps should be snug and not so loose that the backpack hangs too low. Check out these backpacks at http://www.airpacks.com/products.shtm
Ask the teacher if you can get a second set of heavy text books for home if possible. Or ask the teacher to use handouts instead of textbooks for homework. Some states have already begun to embrace the use of E-books and online assignments in place of heavy bulky textbooks.
Here is a handy chart to help you figure what weight limit your child should be carrying.
- 60-75 lbs. can carry 10 lbs.
- 100 lbs. can carry 15 lbs.
- 125 lbs. can carry 18 lbs.
- 150 lbs. can carry 20 lbs.
- 200 lbs. can carry 25 lbs.