As the fall approaches and children are getting ready to go back to school, here are some tips on the use of backpacks.
Most injuries that occur are muscular in nature and in the upper back but to some extent in the lower back. It is rare for children and adolescents to injure a disk carrying their backpack.
Most backpack-related injuries are due to improper wearing and packing. Shoulder soreness comes from wearing the pack only on one shoulder or using a pack with straps that are too thin. Wearing the pack too low or wearing one that is too large can cause bruising to the lower buttocks and upper thighs.
There is no significant correlation between age and gender with the exception that the youngest children seem to be wearing packs that are too big for them. An elementary school child should not be wearing a pack that was designed for a high school student.
Parents have a great deal of concern because of the large number of books that the children cart back and forth to school. Backpacks should be used as a method to transport books. There is no reason a child should be carrying around their books all day through school or have unnecessary items in the pack.
Backpacks have no correlation with creating or worsening scoliosis. Many companies have created backpacks on wheels. These seem to have created even more problems than traditional backpacks. They are heavier to lift, and in crowded hallways there is no room for a backpack on wheels. Some children have tripped over them while running through the hallways. Additionally, it puts more stress on the low back to have your body slightly turned and dragging something behind you.
The best way to prevent injuries is to "pack it right, wear it right." Put the heaviest and largest books closest to your back. Have well-padded straps pulled tightly so the packs sit between your shoulder blades, and use the belt strap to prevent the pack from bouncing back and forth.
If your child is having back pain that you think is related to their backpack, make an appointment to see your pediatrician or an orthopedist who understands back injuries. Bring the backpack with you and let the physician show the proper method of wearing the backpack.
Dr. Michael R. Marks is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He is vice president of business development at Norwalk Hospital and president of Norwalk Hospital Physicians and Surgeons.