Back Up Before You Pack Up! What Does That Backpack Look Like?

Did you know the maximum amount of weight a child should carry on their back is only 15% of their body weight? This means a seventy-pound child should carry no more than ten and half pounds in their backpack. Kids are often required to carry too much as they try to support the many books, tablets, musical instruments, and athletic gear on their small body frames. Unfortunately, younger children are being asked to carry more weight in their backpacks every day. In combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, decreased use of lockers has increased the need to load the backpack with an entire day’s worth of materials.  This increased weight creates greater stress on their immature bones and muscles leading to poor posture and increased muscle strain.   If their posture remains poor, they are at risk for a lifetime of neck, shoulder, and back pain.

As the hustle and bustle of school begins, take a look at what children are carrying on their commute. The backpacks are low on their shoulders, hanging down to leg level, and only one shoulder strap being used. All of these are incorrect placement of the backpack that cause increased stress on the body. The correct size and placement of a backpack can make a big difference in overall posture.  Your child’s backpack should be no larger than their back.  It should be worn with both straps and should fit two inches below the shoulders and two inches above the waist.  It should fit firmly against their back which keeps the weight closer to the body and allows for correct standing posture.

Strain on the postural muscles in young children can lead to many lingering problems in the future. Studies have shown poor posture in standing and sitting can lead to an altered walking pattern or a weakness of the spine muscles. Neck, shoulder and back pain may stem from these issues and often persists until the cause of the problem is corrected.

If you are noticing your child has slouching posture or they tell you they have neck and shoulder pain your physical therapist can help. Physical therapists are trained to assess posture and body alignment to understand which muscles are weak and where the pain is stemming from. Physical therapists have the knowledge to prescribe strengthening exercises or stretches as well as soft tissue massage and manual therapy to address individual concerns. Pediatric physical therapists specialize in early prevention of poor alignment in a child’s immature bones to decrease future structural consequences.  They also provide insight on how to make physical therapy a fun place for your child to learn about how their body works and how to make it work better. Please reach out to a Colorado in Motion pediatric clinic near you with any questions or current concerns.

Neck, shoulder, and back pain can easily become a recurring problem and it is best to use preventative measures rather than to wait for problems to arise. Take a little time to look at your child’s posture, weigh how heavy their backpack is, and look to see how they are wearing it. Many of us understand the struggle with persistent neck and shoulder pain. It is important to take action early with our kids to try to prevent these types of aches and pains by educating them about good posture. Small posture changes can make a huge difference and effect body health well into the future.

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