Backpack Safety: Do’s And Don’ts Before You Send Them Off to School.

It’s that time of the year! The kids are going back to school and we are dreaming of sinking into the sofa with a latte to the beautiful music of silence, right? Oh, a Mama can dream, can’t she? Before we get there, we’ll probably be cruising the isles with the school supply list this weekend. So I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about backpack safety to raise awareness about–what I believe to be–the single most important thing you can do to protect your child’s spine!

As a chiropractor, I see how stress takes a toll on the health and structural integrity of our children’s spines.

The back pain, the herniated discs, the poor posture in adulthood often have roots in childhood; wipe-outs on bikes, skateboards, gymnastics, circus on the sofa, football, tubing down a flight of stairs, diving out of shopping carts–and something kids do 280 days of the year: carry a back pack that may be too heavy.

Check out this study suggesting the correlation between backpack weight and back pathology in school age children.

Just the other day, I sat down with a patient who had some serious degenerative changes in her spine. As we were going over her MRI, she got very emotional because she didn’t understand how this could have happened. Now that the quality of her life was effected by constant pain, she wanted to understand, “how did I get here?”

The truth is: this might have started 20 years ago. The spine is a very stable structure; you don’t just bend over to pick up the piece of paper and get a herniated disc; you don’t just ‘sleep wrong’ and end up with a pain in the neck; you don’t just sit at a desk for a few years and get carpal tunnel. These are symptoms of prolonged stress or trauma on the spine– and consequently the nervous system– that eventually brake it down and cause pain.

Let’s protect our kids. Let’s make sure that the backpack they carry is not setting them up for degenerative changes in their spine later on in life!

O.K. Let’s see if you can tell what’s wrong with this picture.

Don’t: too heavy.

Seems like the backpack is too heavy or overloaded. Plop your kid on the scale and find out how much they weigh. You can calculate what is a ‘safe’ backpack weight for your child by taking 5-10% of their weight. So, my daughter (pictured here) weights 54 lbs. A safe backpack weight is around 5.4lbs. That’s right–that’s not very much! She is able to keep most of her books and supplies in the classroom so I am not concerned, but I know many kids carry heavy books home or even between classrooms. Here are 3 things you can do to distribute the weight more evenly thus minimize the load:

  1. Get a backpack that has a lot of pockets and compartments
  2. Have your child carry some books in his/her hands
  3.  Make sure the straps are wide and padded and shoot for a backpack that has a strap across the waist (You are losing the ‘coolness factor’ here, but–hey, you are the parent after all).

Speaking of the coolness factor, what’s going on here?

Don’t: too low.

Yes. The backpack is hanging on too low. It should rest in the small of the back. This makes your child pull his shoulders forward and puts undue stress on top of the shoulders or middle of the back. If they complain about pain between their shoulder blades or at the base of their neck, check to see if they carry their backpack too low.

This seems harmless, right?


Most kids walk around like that, but carrying their backpack on one shoulder, can contribute to muscle spasm, misalignment of the spine and even nerve pain. If your child ever complains of his hand falling asleep during normal activities, notice if they have this habit of carrying their backpack on one side.

Just remember: lighten the load, take them to see a Chiropractor and invest in good nutrition.

That will ensure they grow healthy and strong. Santa Fe families, you don’t even have to pack them in the car. Check out this offer.


What About Nutrition?

Dr. Jamie McManus Chair of Medical Affairs, Health Science, & Education at Shaklee says, “Because your child is going to achieve most if not all of their peak bone mass by age 20, what they do in childhood, adolescence, and the teen years is critically important for their long-term bone health.” So let’s make sure we also address their nutritional needs! Check out this article, “Building Strong Bones Start Early.”

What’s a blog post without a little give-away? So here is a fun one for ya! Post a pic of your favorite memory this summer on the Holistic Healthcare for Kids group.

The winner will receive a month’s supply of Vitamin D from Shaklee–the only nutritional supplement company I trust for me and my kiddos.

As always, if you have any questions, let me know!