Back PacK Injury
There is growing concern these days that children are carrying way too much weight on their backs.
When extra books or clothing, a musical instrument or other equipment are added, the weight they carry can reach 10 kg. But whatever the figure, those packs are simply too heavy for their still-forming bones and muscles.
Heavy backpacks don’t just sap children of energy that might be better used doing schoolwork or playing sports.
Carrying them can also lead to chronic back pain, accidents and possibly lifelong musculoskeletal damage.
More children than ever are currently citing muscle aches, fatigue, numbness, stress fractures in the back, inflammation of growth cartilage, shoulder, back and neck strain, and nerve damage in the neck and shoulders.
Many times I have seen children with spinal deformity like scoliosis of the spine. That just resulted or gets aggravated by carrying heavy backpacks on just one shoulder.
It has been calculated that carrying a 6kg backpack to and from school and lifting it 10 times a day for an entire school year puts a cumulative load on youngsters’ bodies of 10 tons — the equivalent of six mid-sized cars.
Pain often results when the weight of the pack pulls children backward, prompting them to bend forward or to arch their backs to keep the pack centered. This position can compress the spine, pressing the vertebrae on the discs between them.
If the child has to lean forward when walking with a loaded pack, it is too heavy. At the very least, it is a recipe for poor posture and chronically rounded shoulders. And if these forward-bending children must raise their heads to see where they are going, neck pain and pinched nerves can be the result.
Children also accidentally whack schoolmates with heavy backpacks while walking in crowded hallways. Sometimes the pack falls from a shelf or desk, or trips someone while resting on the floor. A too-heavy pack can throw the wearer off-balance on a staircase.
Tips for safe backpack use:
- Wear both straps. Use of one strap causes one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack. This can be true even with one-strap backpacks that cross the body. By wearing two shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed, and a well-aligned symmetrical posture is promoted.
- Remove and put on backpacks carefully. Keep the trunk of your body stable and avoid excessive twisting.
- Wear the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles.
- Pay close attention to the way the backpack is positioned on the back. It should rest evenly in the middle of the back.
- Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty and permit free movement of the arms.
- Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.
- Lighten the load. Keep the load at 10-15% or less of the student’s bodyweight.
- Carry only those items that are required for the day.
- Each night remove articles that can be left at home.
- Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back to reduce kinetic forces that cause postural mal alignment and overwork muscles.
- Some students even have two sets of books so as not to have to carry the heavy books to and from school.
- When selecting a new backpack: choosing ergonomically designed features that enhance safety and comfort:
- A padded back to reduce pressure on the back, shoulders, and underarm regions, and enhance comfort’
- Hip and chest belts to transfer some of the backpack weight from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso;
- Multiple compartments to better distribute the weight in the backpack, keep items secure, and ease access to the contents; and
- Reflective material to enhance visibility of the child to drivers
- Backpacks with wheels are a good option for younger students who did not change classes or go up and down stairs frequently, but there are precautions to use with those as well.
- Be sure that the extended handle is long enough so that the child is not forced to twist and bend, and that the wheels are sufficiently large so that the backpack doesn’t shake or topple.
- Older students found traditional backpacks to be better due to the frequent walking between classes and also when going to and from school.
Parents and children can avoid injury by recognizing the following warning signs that the backpack is too heavy:
- Change in posture when wearing the backpack;
- Struggling when putting on or taking off the backpack;
- Pain when wearing the backpack;
- Tingling or numbness in arms and legs, mostly arms; or
- Red marks on the shoulders.
How much backpack is maximum?
Person’s Weight (kg.) Maximum Backpack Weight (kg.)
- 30 – 2.5
- 30-45 – 5
- 50 – 7.5
- 60- – 9
- 70 – 10
- 100 or more – 12*
*No one should carry more than 12kg