Backpacks and Back Pains

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Your child's backpack could be unhealthy. If a backpack is too heavy or not worn correctly, it can cause neck, shoulder and back pain and even lead to spinal problems.

Many experts, including Lloyd Hey, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Duke University Medical Center's Spine Center and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery, recommends that children carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight in their loaded packs.

He strongly cautions against wearing a backpack slung over one shoulder.

"That applies uneven loading to the spine," he explains. "This can lead to muscle strain, as well as potentially even bigger problems, such as microfractures down at the lowest part of the spine. It could potentially even contribute to problems with spinal deformity, namely scoliosis, a side-to-side curvature of the spine, or kyphosis, a curving of the spine that causes a bowing of the back, usually in the upper back."

Hey says parents can help their children get organized and plan ahead to minimize the number of books they carry.

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"Talk to your child about what they actually need to take back and forth to school and from class to class," he says. "They should only bring home the books needed for that night's homework assignments.

"Make sure they don't carry around the books they'll need for afternoon classes all day, only the ones they'll need for the next few periods," Hey adds. "During the day, they can go back to their locker and exchange for the books they'll need for their next group of classes."

If children complain of back pain, Hey suggests requesting an additional set of textbooks that can be kept and used at home. If back, neck or shoulder pain persists, parents should take the child's complaints seriously and be on the lookout for symptoms.

"If you notice that the child's shoulders are abnormal in terms of not being lined up," he says, "that could be an indication of an underlying spinal problem, such as scoliosis, that should be further evaluated by an orthopedic spine specialist."

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The source of this article is http://www.dukemednews.org

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