April is National Backpack Safety Month
The Congress of Chiropractic State Associations (COCSA) initiated Backpack Safety Month in 2002. This year, Office Depot is promoting the program directly to school officials across the country. The purpose of the program is to educate students, parents and teachers about the health issues associated with heavy backpacks and to teach ways to carry backpacks correctly to prevent injury.
We would like to share with you the following backpack injury facts that focus on children, but are very relevant to injury prevention in adults, too.
Sad Facts About Backpacks
- Heavy backpacks have a destructive impact on the posture and spinal health. Carrying too much weight contributes to poor disk alignment and forces your head forward which leads to muscle fatigue and strain, especially in your back and shoulders.
- Heavy loads cause injuries that last a lifetime. Injuries to shoulders, neck and back will cause recurring pain and problems.
- 55% of students carry more than the national guideline of 10-15% of body weight. Many children, teens, and adults are carrying up to 40 lbs. In their backpacks. The guidelines recommend:
|Users' weight||Backpack weight|
|50 lbs.||No more than 7.5 lbs.|
|80 lbs.||No more than 12 lbs.|
|100 lbs.||No more than 15 lbs.|
|130 lbs.||No more than 19.5 lbs.|
- The average student has a score for pain of 5.8 on a pain rating scale of 1-10.
- Up to 66% of school nurses reported seeing students with pain or injury attributed to carrying backpacks.
- Up to 60% of children will experience back pain by the time they are 18 years old.
- National Public Radio reported that 65% of adolescents' visits to doctors are for backpack related injuries.*
- The American Academy of Orthopedics stated that backpack injury is a significant problem for children.
- 58% have seen patients complaining about back or shoulder pain related to backpacks
- 65% have recommended that a patient modify use of a backpack to improve or correct a back problem.
Ways to Prevent Backpack Injury
- Wear a backpack properly.
- Distribute the weight properly. Put the heavier items on the bottom and against the back to keep the weight off of your shoulders and to maintain neutral posture.
- Take the backpack off when you will be standing for a long period of time. Extended carrying time increases the pressure on your spine.
- Wear both shoulder straps. Carrying a heavy backpack using one strap shifts the load to one side, which can lead to neck muscle spasms and low back pain. In addition, the unequal weight distribution makes it difficult to walk properly. Make sure the straps are firmly tightened to hold the backpack 2" above your waist.
- Choose a backpack with:
- thickly padded shoulder straps. Non-padded straps dig into the shoulders causing upper back and shoulder pain. Eventually arms and hands will tingle and become weak due to nerve compression and a compromised circulatory system.
- a lumbar support. The lumbar cushion will redistribute weight to the lower extremities, creating a fulcrum that facilitates an upright standing position and good posture that is essential for proper spinal health. The lumbar cushion shifts the majority of the weight to the hips. This pulls the shoulder straps back to promote upright posture and the shoulder straps are used to balance the load. Airpacks (http://www.airpacks.com/backpacks.shtm) is the leading manufacturer of backpacks which promote this type of design.
- a padded back
- a waist belt that distributes weight evenly. The belt shifts the weight off the shoulders, neck and upper back to the lower back. This will prevent injury and is more comfortable.
- multiple compartments that will allow better weight distribution.
- a small backpack. If you don't choose a large backpack, you won't be able to carry as much!
- Lift a backpack correctly.
- Face the backpack before you lift it.
- Bend at the knees and lift with your legs, not with your back.
- Keep the pack close to your body.
- If using a rolling backpack, beware of tripping over it. The University of Michigan health system reported that most backpack-related injuries in children between 1999 and 2000 (28%) were caused by tripping over a backpack, followed by wearing one (13%) and getting hit by one (13%).
- Carry only what you need. Every extra item adds weight!
Please refer to the ErgoKids webpages for more ways to protect your children's posture and to prevent repetitive strain injuries in their future. REFERENCES:
"Ohh Your Aching Backpack", http://kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/bone/backpack.html
"Backpack Safety", Dutchess County News Release, August 13, 2001, http://www.dutchessny.gov/backpacks.htm"Acute Backpack Injuries in Children", by Wiersema, B.O., DO, Wall, E.J., MD and Foad, S.L., MPH. Pediatrics, January '03
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