As School Starts- It’s Time To Consider Their Spines
August is marching right along, fall sports teams are getting practice schedules, and parents are taking advantage of the tax free opportunities to get the kids stocked up for another year of school. Parents and grandparents are purchasing clothes for the kids that fit properly and shoes that don’t rub their feet during long hustles back and forth to each class. Doctors like myself are seeing kids for sports physicals to be sure they are healthy enough to participate in sports. Most things seem to be the normal “check list” type scenarios.
This year let’s take a moment to consider their spines. You may be asking, “Uh, Dr. Ferguson….what does the spine have to do with this back to school theme? ” Well, that is something that we aim to examine here and shed some light on for the parents.
Virtually every student will be required to bring books, notes, pencil boxes, maybe lunches, computers or even a change of clothes for gym to class every day. Standing in the Big Box store, the main concern with a child’s backpack seems to be the look, some may consider the size and how much stuff can be jammed into the thing.
The saying, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” is what parents should be concerned with. Many sources say that backpack weight should ideally be 10% of the child’s weight. So, if we think of an average weight fourth grade girl who weighs between 60 and 70 pounds, her total backpack weight should be between 6 and 7 pounds. How hard is it to get to 6 pounds in a backpack? Let’s do some simple addition: small laptop-3 lbs, 3-4 textbooks-3.5 lbs, notebook, .5 lbs, sack lunch with drink 1 lb, erasers pencils, change of clothes, shoes…? Who knows- because we passed the 6 pound mark after the lunch!
Why does it matter? Consider these stats: 58% of orthopedists polled in 1999 in Chicago, Illinois and Wilmington, Delaware, reported treating children with back or shoulder pain attributable to carrying backpacks. More than 3,300 children, aged 5-14 years, were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to backpacks in 1998. These numbers do not include students who went to family physicians or doctors of chiropractic.
How does this happen? When the body bears a big load on one side, it tends to lean to the opposite side to reach a new center of gravity to balance out the weight. Even though some people choose a crossbody, or messenger, type of pack it still causes the spine to become unbalanced to accommodate the load and to be able to function. Let’s continue as only considering an actual backpack. When the weight is heavy in the back the student tends to bend at the waist and protrude their head forward in a fashion much like a chicken in a race. Joking aside, the student bends forward and juts their head out in an effort to find a manageable center of gravity. Over time muscles can become imbalanced and posture becomes distorted. This is especially concerning as kids may be going through the growth stages of puberty, and they may already be a bit clumsy from the extra few inches of height or weight they put on over the summer. Couple this with students who walk to school, students who wear boots or heeled shoes, and all the random junk that inevitably ends up in the dark recesses of a backpack by the end of the school year, and we have many factors that can contribute to back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain from bearing too much weight with the wrong overall posture.
Suggestions? Well, the kids have to learn and are required to carry books unless the parents just want to have an extra set of textbooks at home. Most won’t opt for this choice, but it’s an option. Weigh the pack periodically and keep only the essentials in the bag in order to not exceed the recommended load amount. And, as always, you can bring your child to a Chiropractor to get his or her spine checked and even treated if necessary. At Health By Logic in Beavercreek, Ohio, we are always happy to see the younger patients and be sure they are on the right path.
Scott Ferguson D.C. 937-426-0777
Clinic Director Health By Logic
1450 Hanes Rd, Ste C, Beavercreek, Oh, 45434