Article of the Week // Backpack Safety for Kids

In North America, more than 40 million students carry backpacks. About 20 million carry in those packs more than the recommended weight. This backpack “overload” sent over 3,000 children, ages 5-14, to hospital emergency rooms in 1999 for injuries related to backpacks.
These numbers are expected to rise year after year as schools around the country continue to move to a trend that every child use a backpack. Children and teens continue to rely on backpacks to carry books and personal belong-ings.
Each year I see more and more children complaining of headaches, neck and shoulder pain. Studies have shown a direct connection to these complaints and overloaded and ill-fitted backpacks. The body has to compensate for the change in its Center of Gravity caused by the backpack’s added weight. The spine in particular, can be affected, as it twists and bends to reposition this added backpack weight.
Even thought there is debate over causes of Scoliosis, one common agreement is that Scoliosis can be caused from consistently overloading a spine. The overload is often in an uneven pattern and can further irritate the spine. Once Scoliosis occurs in a child it can be very difficult to deal with and correct. The smartest way to deal with it is to prevent it by not loading a spine abnormally and by having regular spinal checkups by your family Chiropractor to ensure proper spinal function.
Another problem associated with backpack overload is a condition called “RUCKSACK PALSY”. A heavily loaded backpack causes the shoulder straps to compress delicate nerves, arteries and veins passing underneath. This can lead to numbness and tingling in the arms.
HELP IS ON THE WAY. The Ontario Chiropractic Association has developed a Backpack Safety Program for children in an effort to raise the awareness of local communities to the health dangers overloaded backpacks can present to children. The program has been presented to all elementary schools across the province where posters and information is available for students and teachers to learn about the problem and the solution.
Local Chiropractors have also volunteered to go into schools and individually teach the students and teachers about the health effects of over weighted and ill-fitted backpacks.