With school in session again, many children have resumed wearing backpacks. As this is typically the heaviest load children carry, children who suffer from musculoskeletal pain will often feel it most intensely while using a backpack, but pain can also persist or flare up afterward. Of course, children are not the only people who are vulnerable to misusing backpacks, but we thought now would be a good time to share some advice about safe usage with all our patients, and to provide some guidance on how chiropractic offices can assist people experiencing pain in their backs, shoulders, and necks.
When a backpack is overloaded, the straps tend to dig into the shoulders and trapezius muscles of the wearer. This can restrict circulation to the arms and put stress on the rotator cuffs. Potential consequences include shocks, numbness, or tingling along the upper limbs, and the effect may be worse if a person wears a backpack on just one shoulder. It’s also common for wearers to lean forward to try to balance the weight, which is an inefficient posture that forces them to bend their necks in order to see ahead of them. It is also easier for a person in this posture to fall over.
Back pain and other problems from inefficient backpack usage do not usually cause permanent problems in children, but they won’t go away as long as the child is misusing the backpack. Older people should be mindful of the risk of wear-and-tear injuries and take pain seriously, as well.
Proper Backpack Usage
To begin with, a backpack is still a better option than a messenger bag, due to having two straps, but this is only true when both straps are used. The straps should be wide and padded. They should not be tight enough for the shoulders to feel compressed, but they should prevent the backpack from dangling down to the wearer’s lumbar region. It is also advisable to get a backpack with a waist strap.
Chiropractors usually recommend keeping a backpack’s weight to less than fifteen percent of the wearer’s weight. But how that weight is distributed also makes a difference. Heavier objects should be placed in the bag first so that they won’t shift around, and they should be put on the side closer to the body. Other objects should be distributed throughout different compartments in order to spread out their weight. A backpack also shouldn’t be worn for longer than is necessary to move objects from one place to another, and features such as pull-out handles or wheels are dead weight if they aren’t actually being used.
Relief from Backpack-Related Pain
Normally, pain from overusing a backpack will subside when somebody stops overusing it. Pain may be worse in children who are developing scoliosis, which they should be regularly assessed for. If your child is still complaining of soreness, your chiropractor can offer several non-invasive, non-medicative therapies, including spinal adjustments for developing bodies. Many offices also offer soft tissue therapies such as low-level laser and therapeutic massages that can reduce muscle inflammation and speed the healing process. Your chiropractor can also provide advice on more efficient posture and how to set up a workstation so it won’t additionally stress a child’s back.