Facts about backpack injuries

Mon, 07/27/2009 - 8:45am
By: The Citizen

By Dr. Marilyn L. Durden
Special to The Citizen

Has your child been complaining about back pain over the last few weeks or months? If so, consider the following.

• Heavy backpacks have a destructive impact on the posture and spinal health of children.

• Today’s heavy loads are causing injuries that can last a lifetime.

• 55% of students carry more than the recommended national guidelines of 10-15% of body weight. (Simmons College, April 2001)

• The average student has a Visual Analog Scale (VAS) score for pain of 5.8 (Northeastern University)

• 66% of school nurses reported seeing students with pain or injury attributed to carrying backpacks. (AIRPACKS survey, 2000)

• Up to 60% of children will experience back pain by the time they reach 18 years of age. (University of Michigan)

• National Public Radio reported that 65% of adolescents’ visits to doctors are for backpack related injuries. (October 1998)
• The American Academy of Orthopedics stated that backpack injury is a significant problem for children.

• 58% have seen patients complaining about back or shoulder pain related to backpacks

• 65% have recommended that a patient modify use of a backpack to improve or correct a back problem. (October 1999)

• Medical professionals advise that individuals carry no more than 5-15% of their body weight on their backs. Dr. Durden recommends no more than 10 % maximum.

Example: a child weighing: 50 lbs.- No more than 5 lbs, 80 lbs. - No more than 8 lbs., 100 lbs. -No more than 10 lbs., 130 lbs.- No more than 13 lbs

Many children, teens and adults are carrying up to 40 lbs and are potentially injuring themselves.

Ways to Prevent Backpack Injury

• Wear a backpack properly

• Distribute the weight properly. Put the heavier items on the bottom and against the back to keep the weight off of your shoulders and maintain a better posture.

• Wear both shoulder straps unless your pack is designed for use on one shoulder. Carrying a heavy backpack using one strap can shift the weight to one side, which can lead to neck and muscles spasms, low back pain and walking improperly.

• Choose a backpack with thickly padded shoulder straps. Non-padded straps dig into the shoulders causing pain due to compressional loading of the acromio-clavicular joints and stress on the trapizious muscles.

• Choose a backpack with a lumbar support. The lumbar cushion will redistribute weight to the lower extremities, creating a fulcrum that facilitates an upright standing position and good posture that is essential for proper spinal health.

• Use an ergonomic backpack. Shift the weight off the shoulders, neck and upper back to the lower back. This will prevent injury and is more comfortable.

• Lift a backpack correctly.

• Face the backpack before you lift it.

• Bend at the knees and lift with your legs not with your back.

• Keep the pack close to the body.

• Carry only what you need. Every extra item adds weight!

Dr. Durden recommends a backpack made with multiple compartments and a rack system to distribute the weight.

Call Durden Chiropractic Clinic at 770-631-7600 for more information.

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