Backpack Safety for Kids: Proper Fitting, Weight, & Effects on Spine

Video Transcription

Hi, this is Dr. Brad Holden from HealthFirst Spine & Wellness, where we teach you how to take control of your health by optimizing the core four of spine, mind, food, and move. Today we’re going to be talking to you about backpack safety for your kids. Now one of the questions I often get from my clients is, hey doc, when did this problem start with my back or my neck? Most often the problem actually started when they were kids. Now this person may be in their 40s and they’ll go, I don’t understand, I started getting the neck pain two, three months ago. What do you mean it started when I was a kid? Well we need to really distinguish and define the terms of symptom and problem as it pertains to health.

If the person starts getting neck pain when they’re 40 years old, most often that’s not when the problem started. The problem being whatever biomechanical, or structural issue was there that created the symptom to show up. You see the symptom is always the last thing to show up, and the first thing that goes away. Think in terms of a toothache or a cavity. By the time you feel the tooth aching that cavity has already been there for many months, and many times even years. So if spinal problems most often begin when we’re younger, where we do most of the falling, it’s important that we start looking at what can we do to teach our kids how to take care of their spine so they can have healthy spines as they become an adult.

There are many things that put an inordinate amount of stress on a child’s spine; texting, computer work, all of these different things. But today we’re really going to focus on the backpack. Now when we look at backpacks today, many times we see kids have them overloaded. So today we’re going to cover how to properly fit a backpack, how much weight should be on the backpack, and then lastly, what are the effects of having improperly or an over weighted backpack on the child’s overall spine.

So first of all as we talk about how the backpack should be fitted, we want to make sure the backpack straps are adjusted so that the backpack actually fits up on the child’s upper back, and it’s not sagging down too low along the lower back. When it sags low along the lower back that’s going to change and pull their shoulders back, their hips are going to go forward, and as a result their head is going to go forward, and we’re going to start training this forward head syndrome that we see that’s so prevalent, and that’s so damaging in the public today. So it’s important that we’re going to make sure the straps are fit first, that the backpack sits correctly on the middle back, before we even begin unloading the backpack.

Now we talk about loading the backpack. It’s important that we don’t exceed the recommendation of maximum 15 percent of the child’s weight. So if your child weighs 100 pounds, we do not want to put more than 15 pounds of weight in the child’s backpack. Now as we get into high school, and the kids get bigger and stronger, we need to look at that. Because you can be a 165 pound wrestler, versus a 165 pound person who maybe doesn’t do sports, or doesn’t really lift weights, etc. So as they get older you can start looking at the individual child to see how much weight can they tolerate. Just a good thing that you can do is load the child’s backpack up and just look at their posture from the side. Are the ears, shoulders, hips, and knees all staying in alignment, or are they getting this slouch posture that we don’t want to get? Because really that’s the consequence we’re trying to avoid, that dreaded forward head posture where we see our body compensating to the weight, we see the muscles along the front getting short in the neck. We see the traps getting tight, the upper back getting tight. We see the lower back compression starting to set in. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.

So as you are looking at your child’s backpack, again, number one, make sure the straps are adjusted properly. Number two, make sure that it is loaded correctly, not exceeding their weight. Then number three is a final check. Just have them put the backpack on, and make sure that they’re keeping the alignment of the ear, shoulder, hip, and knee all in proper alignment.

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