Backpack Misuse Leads to Chronic Back Pain, Doctors of Chiropractic Say

Jul 18, 2000, 01:00 ET from American Chiropractic Association

    ARLINGTON, Va., July 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Backpacks have made it easy for
 many Americans to throw in everything but the kitchen sink without realizing
 they could be throwing out their backs. Millions of students are racing to the
 school bus or scurrying to their classes with overstuffed backpacks slung over
 one shoulder. At the same time, more adults have opted for lugging a backpack,
 rather than a briefcase, to and from the office. While carrying a backpack
 might seem harmless enough, it can cause some painful back and neck problems
 for people who don't pack or carry their backpacks properly, according to the
 American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
     "Back pain is pervasive in our society," said ACA President James A.
 Mertz. "Eighty percent of all Americans will suffer from it at some point in
 their lives, and 50 percent of us will suffer from low-back pain this year
 alone. Much of this suffering is brought on by bad habits initiated during our
 younger years-such as carrying overweight backpacks to school."
     A recent survey by Lands' End Direct Merchants found that more than 96
 percent of children ages 8 to 12 will carry a backpack to school this year. Of
 those, nearly one-third will carry their backpack improperly. Similarly, a
 recent study conducted in Italy found that the average child carries a
 backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound backpack for a 176-pound
 man, or a 29-pound backpack for a 132-pound woman.
 
     What Can You Do?
     The ACA offers the following tips to parents to help prevent the needless
 pain that backpack misuse could cause the students in your household. (And,
 now that backpacks have begun replacing briefcases in the work place, you,
 too, might want to follow this advice):
 
     *  Make sure your child's backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of
        his or her body weight. If the backpack is heavier, it will cause your
        child to begin bending forward in an attempt to support the weight on
        his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.
 
     *  The position of the backpack is important. The backpack should never
        hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs
        too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to
        lean forward when walking.
 
     *  A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the
        contents most effectively. When packing the backpack, make sure that
        pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on
        your child's back. An uneven surface rubbing against the back could
        cause painful blisters.
 
     *  Keep in mind that bigger is not necessarily better. Parents should buy
        the best-designed backpack possible for their child. The more room
        there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry-and the heavier
        the backpack will be.
 
     *  It is important that your child wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the
        backpack around by one shoulder strap can cause the disproportionate
        shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well
        as low-back pain.
 
     *  Padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable,
        and can dig into your child's shoulders.
 
     *  The shoulder straps should also be adjustable so the backpack can be
        fitted to your child's body. Shoulder straps that are too loose can
        cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal
        misalignment and pain.
 
     *  If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child's teacher. It
        might be possible for your child to leave the heaviest books at school,
        and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.
 
     *  If your child continues to complain about back pain, consider an
        alternative to traditional backpacks-packs on wheels. More parents and
        children are realizing the benefits of this safer way to transport
        books and other necessities to and from school.
 
     *  Talk to your child about the proper use of backpacks and help him or
        her understand why this and other ergonomic issues are important. A
        child who is educated early in life on the importance of ergonomics can
        apply this knowledge later in life-at home or in the office-and will be
        happier and healthier as a result.
 
     For the Hiker
     *  Backpacks are not only a necessity in school, but also important for
        such outdoor enthusiasts as campers and hikers. When being fitted for a
        hiking backpack, find a backpack that accommodates your dorsal length-
        the area from the upper back to the bottom of your ribs-not your total
        height.
 
     *  While hiking, the shoulder straps should be placed in the center of
        each clavicle, or collarbone. The shoulder straps are for increased
        stability, not for carrying an increased load. For proper wear and
        comfort, you should be able to fit two fingers comfortably under the
        straps.
 
     *  Most backpacks designed for hiking are equipped with hip belts. Since
        most hikers fill their backpacks completely, hip belts are designed to
        carry the majority of the load for longer periods of time. Be sure the
        belt is fitted along the area around the hips and above the pelvic
        bone, where your pants usually ride.
 
     *  When packing your hiking backpack, place the heaviest items in the
        bottom, the lighter items higher and in the pockets. Too much weight at
        the top of the backpack will result in an off-centered,
        disproportionate shift of weight, which can result in back pain.
 
     "If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from
 backpack misuse, call your doctor of chiropractic," said Dr. Mertz.
     Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat
 patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In
 addition, doctors of chiropractic can also prescribe exercises designed to
 help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good
 nutrition, posture and sleeping habits. Numerous studies throughout the world
 have shown that chiropractic treatment, which primarily includes spinal
 manipulation to correct a subluxation, is effective and safe for a variety of
 conditions.
     For more information about the proper use of backpacks, chiropractic care
 or to find a doctor of chiropractic near you, call the ACA at 800-986-4636, or
 visit their Web site at www.acatoday.com.
 
 

SOURCE American Chiropractic Association
    ARLINGTON, Va., July 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Backpacks have made it easy for
 many Americans to throw in everything but the kitchen sink without realizing
 they could be throwing out their backs. Millions of students are racing to the
 school bus or scurrying to their classes with overstuffed backpacks slung over
 one shoulder. At the same time, more adults have opted for lugging a backpack,
 rather than a briefcase, to and from the office. While carrying a backpack
 might seem harmless enough, it can cause some painful back and neck problems
 for people who don't pack or carry their backpacks properly, according to the
 American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
     "Back pain is pervasive in our society," said ACA President James A.
 Mertz. "Eighty percent of all Americans will suffer from it at some point in
 their lives, and 50 percent of us will suffer from low-back pain this year
 alone. Much of this suffering is brought on by bad habits initiated during our
 younger years-such as carrying overweight backpacks to school."
     A recent survey by Lands' End Direct Merchants found that more than 96
 percent of children ages 8 to 12 will carry a backpack to school this year. Of
 those, nearly one-third will carry their backpack improperly. Similarly, a
 recent study conducted in Italy found that the average child carries a
 backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound backpack for a 176-pound
 man, or a 29-pound backpack for a 132-pound woman.
 
     What Can You Do?
     The ACA offers the following tips to parents to help prevent the needless
 pain that backpack misuse could cause the students in your household. (And,
 now that backpacks have begun replacing briefcases in the work place, you,
 too, might want to follow this advice):
 
     *  Make sure your child's backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of
        his or her body weight. If the backpack is heavier, it will cause your
        child to begin bending forward in an attempt to support the weight on
        his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.
 
     *  The position of the backpack is important. The backpack should never
        hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs
        too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to
        lean forward when walking.
 
     *  A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the
        contents most effectively. When packing the backpack, make sure that
        pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on
        your child's back. An uneven surface rubbing against the back could
        cause painful blisters.
 
     *  Keep in mind that bigger is not necessarily better. Parents should buy
        the best-designed backpack possible for their child. The more room
        there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry-and the heavier
        the backpack will be.
 
     *  It is important that your child wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the
        backpack around by one shoulder strap can cause the disproportionate
        shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well
        as low-back pain.
 
     *  Padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable,
        and can dig into your child's shoulders.
 
     *  The shoulder straps should also be adjustable so the backpack can be
        fitted to your child's body. Shoulder straps that are too loose can
        cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal
        misalignment and pain.
 
     *  If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child's teacher. It
        might be possible for your child to leave the heaviest books at school,
        and bring home only lighter hand-out materials or workbooks.
 
     *  If your child continues to complain about back pain, consider an
        alternative to traditional backpacks-packs on wheels. More parents and
        children are realizing the benefits of this safer way to transport
        books and other necessities to and from school.
 
     *  Talk to your child about the proper use of backpacks and help him or
        her understand why this and other ergonomic issues are important. A
        child who is educated early in life on the importance of ergonomics can
        apply this knowledge later in life-at home or in the office-and will be
        happier and healthier as a result.
 
     For the Hiker
     *  Backpacks are not only a necessity in school, but also important for
        such outdoor enthusiasts as campers and hikers. When being fitted for a
        hiking backpack, find a backpack that accommodates your dorsal length-
        the area from the upper back to the bottom of your ribs-not your total
        height.
 
     *  While hiking, the shoulder straps should be placed in the center of
        each clavicle, or collarbone. The shoulder straps are for increased
        stability, not for carrying an increased load. For proper wear and
        comfort, you should be able to fit two fingers comfortably under the
        straps.
 
     *  Most backpacks designed for hiking are equipped with hip belts. Since
        most hikers fill their backpacks completely, hip belts are designed to
        carry the majority of the load for longer periods of time. Be sure the
        belt is fitted along the area around the hips and above the pelvic
        bone, where your pants usually ride.
 
     *  When packing your hiking backpack, place the heaviest items in the
        bottom, the lighter items higher and in the pockets. Too much weight at
        the top of the backpack will result in an off-centered,
        disproportionate shift of weight, which can result in back pain.
 
     "If you or your child experiences any pain or discomfort resulting from
 backpack misuse, call your doctor of chiropractic," said Dr. Mertz.
     Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat
 patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. In
 addition, doctors of chiropractic can also prescribe exercises designed to
 help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good
 nutrition, posture and sleeping habits. Numerous studies throughout the world
 have shown that chiropractic treatment, which primarily includes spinal
 manipulation to correct a subluxation, is effective and safe for a variety of
 conditions.
     For more information about the proper use of backpacks, chiropractic care
 or to find a doctor of chiropractic near you, call the ACA at 800-986-4636, or
 visit their Web site at www.acatoday.com.
 
 SOURCE  American Chiropractic Association