Hey, the new school year is here! At the top of every child’s school supply list is a new backpack. While backpacks vary in style, color, and size, they all share one thing in common: they’re bad for your child’s spinal health. According to an article in the 1998 edition of the prestigious scientific journal Spine, by the time a young adult graduates from high school, he has experienced at least one episode of back pain, due in part to improper use of backpacks.
Children carry excessive amounts of weight on their backs. In fact, a backpack can easily weigh more than 20 pounds. That kind of pressure on a child’s back in early adolescence can result in premature degeneration of the spine. But how come backpacks deal so much damage? Backpacks cause postural changes, which can then cause changes in spinal alignment. Spinal vertebra changes are called vertebral subluxations (also known as vertebral subluxation complex). Vertebral subluxations can cause back and neck pain, muscle tension, muscle imbalance/asymmetry, decreased range of motion, and early degeneration and arthritic changes of the spine.
When a child walks with a loaded backpack slung over one shoulder (say on the right side), he compensates by leaning in the opposite direction. As a result, other areas of the body also compensate for the weight imbalance. Other trade-offs result in muscles working much harder on one side of the body than the other. Take this scenario and repeat it weekly, daily, or monthly, and it’s easy to see how this situation can become a major problem. Similarly, look at your child from the side while he is wearing a backpack. You will quickly notice his head moving forward, once again compensating for the excessive load placed on his spine.
As chiropractors who focus on structural correction of the spine, we are now seeing an increased incidence of children and young adults with severe neck and back pain. What parents often don’t realize is that a child’s spine is still in its developing stages. Considering that the human spine becomes much more stable in the mid to late teens, it’s easy to understand how unnecessary pressure applied to the spine in pre-teens and teens can leave a permanent scar (not unlike leaving an imprint). in wet cement). ). Unfortunately, damage to the spine at such a young age is likely to result in debilitating pain and early arthritic changes that will be more apparent in later years.
So how do we prevent spinal damage that can result from backpack use? Recommendations according to Backpack Safety America® include tips for purchasing backpacks and proper lifting techniques:
1. Make sure the backpack has belt straps. A belt strap serves as a means of stabilization when fastened around the waist.
2. The backpack must have a structurally reinforced base. This will prevent unnecessary sagging commonly found in less expensive models.
3. When the child is preparing to put on the backpack, ask him to look at the backpack when he lifts it over his shoulders.
4. Next, ask them to bend their knees, squat down and use their legs (not their backs) to lift their backpacks (always lift with your legs).
5. Have child slide one arm at a time under the straps, securing both straps snugly around the shoulders.
6. Finally, make sure all straps are adjusted so the backpack fits snugly against your body.
As mentioned above, vertebral subluxation complex (vsc) is a condition where the spine has been forced out of its normal alignment. The consequences go far beyond neck and back pain. Flip through any anatomy book and you’ll see that the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) communicate with every cell, tissue, gland, and organ in the body through nerves that exit the spine. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that changes in spinal alignment can easily interfere with optimal nervous system function.
My favorite backpack company is Airpacks. They are on trend and much better for the spine due to their extra padding and air pockets in the straps and lower back, relieving stress and weight on the spine.
Chiropractors who focus on structural correction of the spine and vertebral subluxation complex (vsc) practice a chiropractic technique called clinical posture biomechanics. CBP is a corrective technique that is not part of the standard curriculum at any chiropractic college worldwide. CBP physicians are committed to extensive postgraduate study in the areas of biomechanics and biophysics of the spine. CBP is backed by more peer-reviewed research in scientific (medical) journals than any other chiropractic technique.
When parents take their children to many chiropractic practices, they do a very thorough structural evaluation. In addition to offering structural corrective care, they go the extra mile by providing education that will help families implement proper postural habits that will prevent further damage to the spine and inhibit the development of the vertebral subluxation complex. In our practice, we believe that the greatest gift any parent can give their child is the gift of health. Since health and wellness depend on a properly functioning nervous system, it is easy to understand the benefits of corrective structural chiropractic care.