Packing to Prevent Back Pain

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September 16, 2015


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This post is available in: Spanish

As if parents of school-aged kids didn’t have enough to worry about as the new school year gets underway, now the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) is citing estimates from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that 8,300 students sought medical attention in 2014 for back injuries from carrying backpacks.

This prompted the AAOS and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America last month to publicly urge parents and students to be aware of the risk for back injuries from carrying overweight backpacks.

Higher Incidence of Children With Chronic Back Pain

“We are seeing more kids with chronic back pain in our office,” said Pooya Hosseinzadeh, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute at Baptist Children’s Hospital. “And those visits increase this time of year.”

Dr. Hosseinzadeh says that problems usually show up more often around the time a child enters middle school. “These students must carry heavier books, and they carry them throughout the day, while changing classes,” he explained.

He also attributes this back pain, which can be chronic and last throughout the school year, to a lack of exercise. “Kids who are less active are more susceptible to back pain because their back muscles can’t support the weight. That can lead to postural issues.” And, he says that once a child’s posture is affected, the cycle of back pain worsens.

Tips to Prevent Back Pain from Backpacks

Dr. Hosseinzadeh recommends the following tips to keep back pain or injury to a minimum:

  • Wear the backpack correctly – Be sure your child wears both straps so that the weight of the backpack is evenly distributed across the muscles of the back.
  • Decrease the weight of the backpack – Leave unnecessary items at home, or in a desk or locker at school, so the backpack is lighter.
  • Pack the bag so that heavier books are placed in the center of the backpack, sandwiched between lighter items.
  • Remove heavier textbooks or objects from the backpack and carry them by hand.
  • Parents should watch their children as they put the backpacks on to see if the kids are struggling and make appropriate adjustments to lighten their loads.
Exercise

Dr. Hosseinzadeh also suggests that parents encourage their kids to stay physically active and exercise their back muscles to avoid weakness that can lead to back injuries and pain.

And most importantly, he says to pay attention to your child’s complaints. If back pain results from trauma or is accompanied by a fever, seek immediate medical attention. If you suspect your child’s backpack is to blame, follow the tips above. If those don’t resolve the problem within two weeks, seek medical attention.

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