Children use backpacks for numerous activities, from transporting books to and from school to carrying their goods on camping trips or family hikes. Back problems related to heavy backpacks on children develop because of the weight of the materials in the bag and improperly securing the backpack. Heavy backpacks can cause injury in multiple muscles, as well as to the back, shoulders and neck. Dr. John J. Triano, a Texas chropractor, says medical literature has inconsistent recommendations for carrying heavy backpacks, but several authors suggest that the weight of backpacks be no more than 10 to 15 percent of a child's body weight.
Wearing heavy backpacks causes spinal compression in children. The spine, composed of 33 bones called vertebrae, is the back's shock absorber. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh website says placing a heavy backpack on your shoulders pulls the body backward. To balance the weight of the backpack, children have to lean forward and arch their backs. This forward lean places pressure on the spine. Children experience tingling, aches and burning sensations in the legs, hips, calf and feet. To treat your children at home, apply ice to their backs for 48 to 72 hours, followed by heat treatments. Give children Tylenol or ibuprofen. Talk to doctors before giving children over-the-counter medications. Find therapists who specialize in massages on children.
Carrying heavy backpacks cause nerve damage. Children round their shoulders and back when leaning forward and tilt their heads upward to see where they are going. Dr. Pierre D'Hemecourt, sports medicine specialist at Children's Hospital Boston, says compensating for the weight of the backpack and tilting the neck to see leads to pain in the back and neck muscles and causes nerve damage in the neck. Symptoms of nerve damage include tingling, numbness and weakness in the hands and arms. Nerve damage also occurs when straps are too thin and dig into the neck and shoulders.
Stress fractures, or spondylolsis, result from carrying heavy backpacks, leading to an unnatural spinal position. Children get stress fractures from leaning backward because of the weight of their backpacks. Leaning back puts the back in an unnatural position. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website says symptoms of spinal stress fractures include mild radiating pain in the buttock and legs. Rest, anti-inflammatory medications and back strengthening exercises control stress fracture symptoms.
Loss of Balance
Children lose balance from carrying heavy backpacks. Wearing backpacks to school or on hiking trips can be dangerous. Leaning forward or backward and trying to walk doesn't give children a sense of direction. They can lose their balance and fall, causing both minor and major injuries. The best way to prevent injuries from occurring because of heavy backpacks is to avoid overpacking.