Heavy backpack, how to avoid back damage

Heavy backpack, how to avoid back damage

How many times have you lifted your child’s backpack thinking it was too heavy? A recent study calculated the actual force exerted by backpacks on the spine.

Heavy backpack, how to avoid back damage

The spine of school-age children and teenagers is often stressed by backpacks that are too heavy . 

This is a problem that should not be underestimated. A heavy backpack can in fact cause back pain , compression of the intervertebral disc, neck pain , alteration of correct posture and walking mechanics , plantar pressure.

What force a heavy backpack exerts on a child’s back

A study entitled Backpack Forces on the Spine , published in September 2018 in the medical journal “Surgical Technology International”, helps to understand the force exerted on the spine by backpacks , based on the weight and inclination of the spine.

The study evaluated, through a simulation and a specific software:

> a normal backpack to which weights were added incrementally, using both shoulder straps and with the spine in a neutral position ;

> a normal backpack to which weights were added incrementally, using both shoulder straps, with the spine tilted 20 degrees forward.

In the first case, the force experienced by the spinal column was equal to 7.2 times the added weight ; in the second case, however,  the value rose to 11.6 times .

Try to make a calculation with the weight of your children’s backpack. You will easily realize how much their back is stressed, in a delicate phase such as that of the child’s growth .

Read also The key disciplines of a correct posture >>

The correct weight of the backpack, depending on the age

The correlation between backpacks and spinal problems has been extensively studied. According to some researches, the weight considered “safe” to avoid problems would be equal to:

> 10% of body weight for children and adolescents;

> between 10 and 15% of body weight in young adults;

> up to a maximum of 20% of university age.

The one published in September, however, is the first study that considers the position of the spine among the variables. In the conclusions, he stresses the importance of using  a backpack that helps keep the spine in a physiological position .

The right backpack to avoid spinal problems

First, it is advisable to choose a backpack with two shoulder straps.  Even if the use of a single shoulder strap does not seem to affect walking, the asymmetry would lead to assuming a wrong posture , leading to problems even if the load does not exceed the weight limit indicated above. 

This is supported by a study entitled Effects of carrying a backpack in an asymmetrical manner on the asymmetries of the trunk and parameters defining lateral flexion of the spine , published in March 2015.

Long shoulder straps or short shoulder straps better? According to a study entitled Effect of backpack shoulder straps length on cervical posture and upper trapezius pressure pain threshold , published in September 2016, the use of short shoulder straps is less harmful.

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