Adolescent girls at greatest risk for schoolbag-related back pain

backpackphotoA recent study published in The Spine Journal found that adolescent girls are most likely to experience back pain related to schoolbag use. More than 60 percent of participants reported schoolbag-related pain, and more frequent and severe pain was reported by girls than boys, regardless of load size.

We talked to Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon Derek Kelly, MD, for tips on how to help your child alleviate or avoid backpack-related pain.

There is currently no scientific data to link backpack use to spinal deformity conditions like scoliosis or kyphosis. However, back pain is very common in children and teenagers, and some of this pain is possibly related to the use – or improper use – of backpacks.

When carrying a backpack, kids should:

  • Pack lightly.
    Only carry necessary items. Do not carry every book home every day; only carry those books needed for homework that night or that weekend. Leave the rest in the classroom or locker.
  • Use both straps.
    The weight of a backpack is best distributed across both shoulders. Most backpacks are designed to evenly spread the weight across both shoulders, and using the pack in this manner is safest.
  • Use rolling packs.
    Use a rolling pack or bag when possible to keep the weight of the back.
  • Exercise regularly.
    Regular physical activity, particularly exercises designed to strengthen the core muscles (abdominal muscles, spine muscles, buttock muscles, and upper thigh muscles), can help reduce the frequency and severity of back pain.
  • Stretch often.
    Hamstring tightness is a major contributor to back pain in children and adolescents. Routine stretching of these muscles is very important.
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