Back to School: Choosing the Right Backpack

Your child’s backpack is more than a useful tool for carrying things. It’s a fashion statement, suitcase, snack storage, recycle bin, and home to plenty of broken crayons, cool twigs, and unsharpened pencils. Do you buy a new one every year or give last year’s a thorough cleaning? Do you stitch small tears or cover them with a funky decorative patch?

Vancouver WA Chiropractor discusses healthy backpack habits for our kids

We carry a backpack for more than 10 years of our life. But that decade is also when we’re doing the most growing, developing, and changing. Make sure your child’s backpack isn’t causing more harm than good by following a few easy steps. Doctors and chiropractors, like Vancouver’s Dr. Henderson at Family & Sports Chiropractic Clinic, can help address—and sometimes even prevent—the aches and pains of lugging around a heavy bag.

The National Safety Council suggests parents keep an eye out. “When you move your child’s backpack after he or she drops it at the door, does it feel like it contains 40 pounds of rocks? Maybe you’ve noticed your child struggling to put it on, bending forward while carrying it, or complaining of tingling or numbness. If you’ve been concerned about the effects that extra weight might have on your child’s still-growing body, your instincts are correct. Backpacks that are too heavy can cause a lot of problems for kids, like back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as poor posture.”

Studies conducted by members of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) show that “This new back pain trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks—often slung over just one shoulder…A 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.”

Finding Solutions for Backpack Discomfort

But there are things which can be done to minimize the pain and discomfort from all that weight. The ACA recommends keeping the overall load around 5 or 10% of your child’s total body weight. They strongly suggest using both wide, padded shoulder straps adjusted to fit your child specifically. And, somewhat counterintuitively, consider NOT buying the biggest, most compartmentalized bag on the market. “Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry—and the heavier the backpack will be.”

Beyond its load-bearing nature, make sure the backpack you choose offers reflective material or striping so it can be seen when they’re walking to and from school. And a padded back surface will keep books and binders from poking uncomfortably into shoulders, neck, and spine.

Some parents are opting for a suitcase-styled pack on wheels. But ACA doctors are “now recommending that they be used cautiously and on a limited basis by only those students who are not physically able to carry a backpack. Some school districts have begun banning the use of rollerpacks because they clutter hallways, resulting in dangerous trips and falls.”

At the end of the day, there’s only so much we can do. Books need to be carried and a stylish backpack is the go-to mode of transportation. If your kiddos find themselves sore, schedule a visit with Dr. Henderson today. She firmly “believes in treating the whole patient, not just covering up symptoms. That’s one reason she encourages you to ask her questions. The better you know your body, the healthier you can be.”

Vancouver Washington Chiropractor offers tips for healthy backpack use

A lifelong learner with a passion for gymnastics and the outdoors, Dr. Henderson understands how to diagnose, address, and treat life’s many aches and pains. She offers general, sports (even for student-athletes), and pregnancy chiropractic services as well as auto accident recovery. During your consultation visit, she’ll ask many questions and answer all of yours, and perform a basic examination.

After this first visit, a follow-up will be scheduled as “a second consultation in which I go over the results of your examinations and tests. More importantly, I will also explain exactly what you have and how I can help.” That way everyone involved knows what happens next and how things will proceed.

Make an appointment by calling 360-254-0400. And don’t worry, there’s nothing to bring (except your questions) and nothing to study for so leave those heavy backpacks at home this time. Your shoulders and back will definitely thank you for the break!