Preventing Back Pain Due to Improper Use of Backpacks
By Dr. Sender Deutsch
Aug. 2011

As September approaches, it's a reality, the summer has come to an end and it is 'back to school' time!

The start of a school year brings many challenges; however many parents overlook the need to prevent back pain for their children.  Research by the Ontario Chiropractic Association demonstrates that back pain affects children just as much as adults and will further pre-dispose a child to back pain as an adult.

One of the most common causes of childhood back pain is the improper use of wearing a backpack. Often you will see kids walking to school with their backpack over one side of their shoulder which can cause damaging effects. The repetitive strain on the low back causes the muscles on the opposite side to work harder in order to maintain the body from falling over to the side. Children and teens should be encouraged to wear backpacks properly over both shoulders and using all of the supportive clips and buckles.

Often packed with too much weight, backpacks are causing kids to lose the natural curves of the spine. The heavy weight of the backpacks forces kids to lean forward which increases the pressure on their low back. For growing children, we need to strengthen their backs as they grow and heavy backpacks with improper fitting can do more harm than good!

As a general rule the backpack should way no more than approximately 10-15% of your child’s bodyweight. It is important to watch your child walk while wearing their backpack to ensure that they are able to walk comfortably while looking straight ahead. I often highlight that proper posture should be maintained by looking to ensure that their chin is up, chest is out, core is tight and shoulders are down and back. I recommend that parents do this check with their kids--try to make it fun so that they can ensure that they are wearing the backpack properly at all times!

The Obusforme Comfort Support system is designed specifically to keep the weight of the backpack close to your child’s spine specifically the small of back. The lumbar support is extremely comfortable and ensures that proper spinal alignment is maintained while distributing the load evenly throughout. The four support straps are extremely important as they can be adjusted easily to prevent the backpack from not being secure. This flexibility also allows your child to grow with the backpack.

Furthermore, the Obusforme backpacks are endorsed by the Canadian Chiropractic Association and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association as they are ergonomically engineered to transfer the load from the weaker muscles of your low back to the stronger and more powerful muscles of your hips and legs. The comfort support system provides excellent ventilation to prevent children from becoming sweaty and overheated leading to misuse of the backpack.

The start of another school year brings lots of excitement and new beginnings, but please remember to take a few minutes to ensure your child's backpack is helping them start the year off right---with a healthy back!