Back to School Shopping, backpacks…and POSTURE!!

Posted on August 27, 2015

sweet little girl carrying very heavy backpack or schoolbag full

Article written by: Jim Storhok DPT, ATC

Can you believe that it is back to school shopping time again? Some of you parents are wondering where the time went because you had such a great time with your kids, and others are very excited that the kids will be spending some time with their teachers in the near future.

What I wanted to discuss today is picking the right back pack for your child, and also going over some of the postural implications that can occur if the backpack is not fitted properly to your child.

Every neutral spine looks like an elongated “S” if you look at it from the side. There should be a slight curve in the neck region, as well as a slight curve in the lower back region. The back pack should lie in the middle of the spine. Many times, kids like to wear a backpack over one shoulder or the other, or at times they like to wear them with very long shoulder straps, so that the backpack itself sits very low, even lower than the belt line at times. This has potentially detrimental implications to your son or daughter’s spine over time. If the backpack is over one shoulder only, there are excess stresses that are placed over the shoulder as well as the lower back on the side that the backpack is on, and they could potentially start getting muscular strains or pains in the area. If the backpack is too low, or if it is packed too heavy, the child may compensate with a forward head, rounded shoulder posture and an increased curvature in the lower back, which in turn will put excessive stresses on the joints in the neck and low back. This could result in neck pain, headaches, joint pain, or early degeneration of the spine or discs.

The best strategy to utilize is to wear the backpack over the middle portion of the back, with the shoulder straps at an appropriate length. There are backpacks that are being manufactured today that are more narrow for girls and a little wider for boys, and there are also clips that attach from one shoulder strap to the other around the breastbone to keep the backpack from slipping off the shoulders and ensuring a snug, appropriate fit.

Let’s keep our kids feeling good and ready to learn this school year. This will be helped by making sure their backs and necks aren’t hurting from a poorly fitted or carried backpack. If you have any questions regarding the health of your child’s neck or low back in general, speak with your family physical therapist.