Atlantic Coast Chiropractic

Function vs Fashion -


Backpack Awareness


Chiropractors, pediatricians and orthopedic surgeons

alike agree that backpacks are a problem for your

child’s spine. While alone they may not cause major

problems, overloading and improper carrying of a

backpack can lead to headaches, neck, shoulder, and

lower back pain.

An article published in Spine journal stated, “Of the

1,122 backpack users, 74% were classified as having

back pain, validated by significantly poorer general

health, more limited physical function, and more

bodily pain.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends

that a child’s backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20

percent of the child’s weight. While healthcare

professionals do not agree on the exact weight, the

consensus is that more than 10% of your child’s body

weight can lead to back and neck pain; and most

healthcare professionals agree that 15% or more of

their body weight can lead to severe back, neck and

shoulder pain as well as headaches and other spinal

discomfort; not to mention aggravating pre-existing

spinal conditions such as scoliosis.

How heavy is too heavy? Did you know that a 60-

pound child should be limited to carrying no more

than 9 pounds; an 80-pound child, 12 pounds; and a

100-pound pre-adolescent should carry no more than

15 pounds?

It’s important to weigh your child’s backpack at

least once a week. If it exceeds 15% of your child’s

weight, then work with your child to evaluate their

backpack and lighten the load. The extra book,

binder, electronic device or water bottle can easily

add a hefty (and unnecessary) additional 10 pounds.

In a recent study by Consumer Reports, researchers

visited several schools in New York City and found

that kids in the 2nd and 4th grade were carrying

about 5 pounds worth of homework and books.

However, when kids reached the 6th grade, the

load got much heavier. The average 6th grader was

carrying a backpack that weighed over 18 pounds,

with some carrying as much as 30 pounds and

Consumer Reports suggests keeping the weight

Heavy or Too Heavy?

Lighten the Load

of the backpack closer to 10% of the child’s weight,

if possible.

“Children can suffer low-back pain, too,” says Dr. Orly

Avitzur, a board-certified neurologist and medical

adviser to Consumer Reports. “A heavy backpack is a

strong contributor to low-back pain in children.”

Your first priority,

when purchasing a

backpack, is to

selection function

over fashion.

The Wellness Family

Dr. Giacalone Keeps You Infomed

Take a moment to show your child or teen the

importance of loading and carrying their backpack.

The heaviest items should rest against the back, which

means loading them first and attempting to distribute

the weight evenly. Since many schools are requiring a

child to have a laptop, it’s important to make sure that

it rests against the back, since it will clearly be the

heaviest item in the backpack.

While your child or teen may think nothing of carrying

their backpack slung over one shoulder, the truth is

that this fashion statement is damaging to their

developing spine; one shoulder is being required to

carry a burden that both shoulders and the back should

be sharing. The only proper way to carry a backpack is

with both straps over the shoulders and the backpack

resting against the lower back.

Your first priority, when purchasing a backpack, is to

select function over fashion. This request may be easier

said than done but years of using a fashionable but not

functional backpack can only lead to improper spinal

alignment, poor posture and eventually pain for your

child or teen.

Second, when looking for a better, functional backpack,

look for one that meets a few criteria; first, that the

backpack fits properly (not too long or too short); and

secondly, that it has wide, padded, adjustable straps (for

proper positioning on the back). Girls and shorter

children are more likely to have back pain from

Proper Loading and Carrying

Function vs. Fashion

Roller Bags

backpacks, due to their smaller stature, so it’s important

to find one that fits well.

A third option is to look for a backpack with a hip strap

or lumbar pillow. The hip strap, when used, can

distribute a portion of the weight to the hips, easing the

load on the spine and shoulders. The use of a lumbar

pillow will provide the necessary back support to the

lumbar region where the greatest portion of weight is

being carried. When shopping you need to know that

the more support you buy, the less spinal stress your

child or teen will carry.

Finally, look for backpacks that will support what you

know your child will be carrying for school. For

instance, if your child needs to carry a laptop, look for a

backpack that has a laptop pouch or sleeve, as they will

typically be against the back and help ensure that your

child is loading their backpack properly. It is advised

that you do not purchase a backpack that is just one big

pouch as this will discourage proper loading by allowing

your child to cram everything in quickly.

Although one might think otherwise, roller bags are not

the answer. Despite the fact that they are taking the

weight off your child’s spine and shoulders, it should be

noted that an empty roller bag may weigh up to 80%

more than an empty backpack.

Furthermore, these bags run larger, inviting the owner

to overload the extra space with as much as 50 pounds.

Although these bags will be rolled, don’t forget that

your child or teen (and their developing spine) are still

at risk when they haul their bag up or down stairs or

retrieve it from the back seat of the car.

So, as you prepare your child or teen to return to

school, take a brief moment to educate them about

“function” first.

Watch your child as they put on their backpack, if the

weight of the backpack is making them hunch over, it

is probably overweight. Other symptoms of poor

backpack loading or carrying include:

• Aching of the shoulders, neck or back

• Pain, tingling or numbness in the neck, arms

or hands

• Weakened muscles

• Headaches

• Leaning to one side, backward or forward

• Red marks and creases on the shoulders

• Struggling to put on or take off the backpack

If your child is showing any of these symptoms, be sure

to talk with your Family Wellness Chiropractor about a

spinal screening to determine if an overweight backpack

may have caused any spinal deviations.

The Chiropractic Factor

Dear Patient,

Dr. Giacalone is dedicated to providing you with the

absolute best in family wellness care. So take a moment

today to discuss with your Family Wellness Chiropractor

any concerns you may have regarding your family’s

overall health and wellness.

This newsletter is provided to you by:

The Chiropractic Office of

Dr. Anthony Giacalone

6841-D Market Street


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