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Is Your Child’s Backpack Hurting Their Health?

by Dr. Andrew T. Brady, Chiropractic Physician

Dr. Andrew T. BradyEvery time I pass a group of kids walking to or from school, I can’t help but notice how enormous some of their backpacks are. With school back in session, it’s important to understand the effects of a backpack that is too heavy, as this can have a significant impact on your children’s health and vitality.

It is not uncommon for a middle school-aged child to have a backpack weighing upwards of 30 pounds, according to a New York Times article. Many parents don’t think about the health impacts this might have on their children. When wearing a backpack, especially a heavy one, the shoulders will roll forward, the middle back will hunch, and the neck and head will protrude forward. This posture is called Forward Head Posture and can lead to significant health problems now and down the road.

When the shoulders roll forward and the head protrudes, this decreases the child’s lung capacity by up to 30%. This can lead to children complaining of not being able to catch a deep breath in. Another problem is that for every inch the head moves forward over the shoulders, the weight of the child’s head on the spine increases by 10 pounds. Most children have 2 inches of translation, which is like walking around with a watermelon around their neck. This can eventually lead to headaches, sinus problems, TMJ, degenerative discs, a “hunch back,” and permanent changes to the anatomy of the spine. A 2004 study actually found an association between hunched posture and increased mortality due to the effects on the heart. When you factor in looking down and texting, while also wearing a backpack, the effects are magnified and accelerated.

Unfortunately, these effects are usually not reversed by simply reducing the weight of your child’s backpack. Especially if these poor ergonomics have been going on for years, they may need actual spinal corrections by a chiropractic physician to restore spine and nerve function. There isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t see a new teenage patient that is experiencing the above problems. Oftentimes, they’ve already been to countless doctors and have been prescribed numerous medications in an effort to find answers but are left feeling frustrated and hopeless. Prevention is the key; a backpack should be no more than 10% to 15% of your child’s body weight, and carrying books in your arms is always a good alternative.

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Spine Integrative Wellness Article – Child’s Backpack | (234) 284-8002