As we approach Labor Day, I think it is slightly odd that it is thought of as the end of summer. Why? Because my children have been back in school for three weeks already, and growing up, I don’t remember once that I ever started after Labor Day. And the other side of the argument is that it is still over 100 degrees here, which if that doesn’t scream summer, I don’t know what does. However, Labor Day is thought of as the official end of summer, and with that comes the start of the school year, and more complaints of back pain.
Why is there more back pain during the school year? It is not due to sports or an increase in physical activity. Instead it is due to what they are carrying on their back. Usually around 20-30% of their body weight in books/school supplies. I remember my high school days, my back pack could easily be 40 pounds. Why? Because there was not enough time to go to my locker between classes, and so I took all of my books to every class, and most of them home and back with me, only stopping by my locker in the morning, lunch and right before I left to go home. From what I see, this trend continues today.
A few years ago, some of the companies came out with wheeled backpacks which seemed like great ideas, except they were bigger than the traditional backpack, took up too much room, so the schools banned them. So while they helped with the child’s physical well being, there just was not room for them in the schools.
I don’t think that the schools are trying to punish the children. In fact, I think they are trying to come up with some reasonable solutions. The local middle school is sending a set of books home, that stay at home, and one that stays at school in an attempt to decrease the load on their back. (Though they may not have much of a choice, since they removed lockers from the school) Other schools are issuing laptops to the students, in an attempt to decrease the costs of textbooks. I don’t know if this will decrease the load on the kids backs or increase the costs to taxpayers and parents. Only time will tell.
However, if there is no way to avoid the backpack on your child, there are a few guidelines that should be kept. The back pack should weigh no more than 10% of the child’s weight. A 100 pound child should only carry a 10 pound backpack, and a 60 pound child a 6 pound back pack. Perform stretching exercises to help strengthen the back, and help to get the strain out of those back muscles. Occasional use of ibuprofen is fine permitting the child does not have stomach or kidney problems, but if it becomes a daily need, consult your child’s physician. Sometimes other modalities will need to be done such as physical or occupational therapy to deal with the pain. Rarely is there a need for xrays, but it is a possibility. Keep the child at a healthy weight for their height. One of the biggest causes of back and joint pain is being overweight. When coupled with a back pack that is too heavy, that is a case of injury and pain just waiting to happen.
If a backpack must be used, make sure it is used as intended, using both shoulder straps, and is for their size of body. A backpack that is too big or too small can aggravate the problem. And an overlooked, but common aggravating problem is poor posture, especially in the female who grew before the rest of her class. Make sure that your child and teen practices good posture. All of these will help reduce the stress caused by carrying a backpack.