School is back in session! Are your children wearing their book bags safely?
Summer is nearly over and your child is likely a few weeks into their fall semester of classes. During this time, parents must be aware of how their children's activity levels, postures, and habits change. Instead of spending hours outside playing each day, your child will likely be sitting in the classroom much more frequently. If they are required to wear a uniform, they may be wearing more restrictive clothes or shoes. Additionally, they will inevitably be carrying around a book bag throughout their day. While these changes are not inherently bad, simple tips and prevention can speak volumes for your child's spine and overall health.
Book Bag Implications
In 2013, there were >5,000 reports of backpack related injuries in the United States! Additionally, 1 in 4 children between the ages of 12-17 years old reported having back pain for >15 days in a single year. (1) Twenty-five percent is an alarming amount of low back pain in our adolescent population! While a book bag does not directly cause pain or disability, it can certainly lead to chronic postural problems, balance issues, and/or alter how your child naturally moves.
"As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, the most common injury I see related to wearing a book bag is lower back pain or tension." Jim Heafner PT, DPT, OCS
Proper Book bag Wearing Tips
1) Position the book bag between your shoulders and belly button. As you will commonly see, book bags often rest low onto a child's hips or buttock region. When the bag sits lower on the body, it can pull the child backward. This extra weight places stress across the child's low back, potentially causing low back tension or discomfort. Tightening the straps so that the book bag rests near belly button level helps distribute the weight near the center of mass.
2) Evenly distribute items in the bag with heavier objects toward the bottom of the book bag. Children often haphazardly stuff books, food, clothes, and more into their book bags. This method often leads to poor weight distribution of the objects in the bag. If the weight is not evenly distributed, certain regions of the body must work harder while carrying the bag. Overtime this can lead to asymmetries or extra stress placed across the body.
3) Avoid wearing the book bag on one shoulder. While it may look cool to sling the book bag over one shoulder, it is not the most practical option for carrying the bag. Not only is the one shoulder strategy inefficient, but constantly loading one shoulder can also create stress across the neck. At Heafner Health Physical Therapy, we suggest keeping the weight evenly distributed over both shoulders, especially if your child is wearing the book bag for long periods of time.
4) Bonus Tip. The book bag should only weight ~15% of the child's body weight. For example, if your child weighs 100#, they should have a 15# pack or less.
1. Educate your child on proper back pack wear using the tips above!
2. The information is simple, but effective! Use this information to keep your child's back healthy and strong.
3. Remember, the backpack alone is not the problem. Your child's posture and daily habits will play a significant role in how they move and feel throughout the day.
Movement is the key to longevity!
ABOUT HEAFNER HEALTH
Heafner Health Physical Therapy is owned and operated by Dr. Jim Heafner. His evidenced-based treatment approach is different than your average physical therapist. As a residency trained Orthopedic Specialist, Jim identifies the cause of people’s pain and symptoms. His treatments combine hands-on techniques (including soft tissue work and adjustments) as well as corrective exercises, with the goal of getting people back to the activities they enjoy most. Jim strongly believes that pain is not permanent, and everyone should have the opportunity to be strong and healthy throughout their entire life.
Heafner Health is conveniently located inside RallySport in Boulder, Colorado. All treatment sessions are 1-on-1. We treat everyone from top athletes to weekend warriors. No doctor’s referral is required prior to evaluation! Stop managing your pain and start your path to wellness. Learn more at www.heafnerhealth.com
-Jim Heafner PT, DPT, OCS
Heafner Health Physical Therapy
(1) Scolio Smart: https://www.treatingscoliosis.com/infographics/backpack-injuries/