Backpack pain is an all too common condition of school-age children. While back pain is a known and widely-studied issue in adults, its prevalence in school-aged children has received relatively little scientific attention. Elementary, middle, and high school students must often carry backpacks that weigh enough to trigger chronic back pain, bad posture, and even decreased lung volume. I have written about this issue earlier, but lately, several studies reveal the truths behind childhood back pain and ways to mitigate it.
Recent research supports that children carrying backpack loads of over ten percent of their body weight have a greater chance of creating back pain and related difficulties. An global study found that an alarmingly large percentage of school-age kids in Australia, France, Italy, and the United States often carried backpacks weighing more than the ten percent threshold.
In a second study involving a sample of 1540 metropolitan school-aged children, more than a third of the children surveyed reported backpack pain. Along with carrying heavy backpacks, female students and those diagnosed with scoliosis had a larger association with back pain pain. Children with access to lockers reported less pain.
The number of straps on the back had little effect on the respondent’s replies. Children also reported restricted physical activity due to back pain, and some took drugs to alleviate the pain.
Girls who transported bags in addition to wearing a backpack reported considerably greater back pain. Adolescents with back pain spent more time watching television than their peers. More than 80 percent of the surveyed thought that carrying a heavy backpack due to their back pain.
The research revealed several things that might help reduce back pain in school-aged children. The best way to prevent back pain is to refrain from carrying heavy loads.
Kids ought to make the most of locker breaks and only carry items necessary for a couple of courses at one time. When lifting a back pack, children should crouch down and bend their knees rather than curve the spine.
While not conclusive, research also supports that carrying the weight otherwise, e.g., by hand rather than by back pack, may help stop or reduce back pain. The American Occupational Therapy Association and the American Chiropractic Association provide these additional safe backpack etiquette tips:
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