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Backpacks and Backs

Did you know that around 20% of kids missed school last year because of back pain caused by backpacks?

Children carrying backpacks

Photo: hoyasmeg (flickr)

Carrying heavy weight in a backpack might cause back pain for these high school students in Ibillin, Israel

Students often carry backpacks to school full of heavy textbook, but experts say that overly heavy backpacks can cause back pain. That’s true especially for kids. Did you know that something like twenty-percent of kids missed school last year because of back pain caused by backpacks?

Although well-designed backpacks are supposed to distribute weight across the back in a way that makes it safe, the spine has thirty-three vertebrae, which have discs in between that cushion the bones and allow the spine to bend. Putting too much pressure on the discs can cause pain. That’s the problem with a really heavy backpack. A pack that’s more than around fifteen-percent of a kid’s body weight will pull him/her backward. Leaning forward to compensate or arching the back compresses the spine and really squeezes those discs, which can cause pain in the neck, back and shoulders. Also, wearing a backpack over one shoulder can hurt because it pulls the body to one side. Compensating by leaning to the other side puts a lot of pressure on the spine, too.

Fortunately, pain and injury from heavy packs is very rarely permanent. But it can still be enjoyed to keep kids out of school.

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