It’s back to school and with that come backpacks. Often times schools do not allow lockers for students and many are therefore forced to carry their books, binders even lunch in their backpack. There are many stylish backpacks but what’s more important than style is comfort. Comfort for the student who has to wear the backpack.

Research has shown that heavy backpacks affect the wearer and an MRI study actually set out to prove if that very thing was true. The study is the first of its kind and is quite fascinating.

The study had 8 children total with the age range from 9 to 13 years of age and each had three lumbar MRI scans done on their lumbar spine while weight bearing (standing)[1]. The children carried backpacks with three different weights for each different MRI, which were 4, 8, and 12 kilograms, which is roughly 9 lbs, 17.5 lbs, and 26.5 lbs[1].

The study found that back loads significantly compressed lumbar disc spaces and increased lumbar asymmetry (think scoliosis)[1]. What this means is the backpacks weight pushed their spinal bones closer together and in uneven ways.

A survey of research papers that analyzed how kids’ spines held up under the pressure of a loaded backpack also found postural changes and noted backpacks also had an effect on low back muscle activity[1].

The MRI study also reported that the heaviest load (26.5 lbs approximately) elicited an average pain score from the children at nearly a 5/10 for pain, with 0 being no pain and 10 being in the hospital with the worst imaginable pain. This score of 5/10 is extremely high for a child just wearing a backpack[1,3]! It should be noted that in the study the children were wearing the backpack straps over both shoulders and not over one and that if they had just worn it over one shoulder it could make the spinal curvature much worse[1,3].

At Foundation Chiropractic, even though it isn’t “cool,” we recommend rolling backpacks. If your kids get ribbed for rolling around, they’ll be glad when their peers are rolling around life in a different way. Minimize the stress and trauma to these little spines. If you want a Structural Assessment of your little one, we do a basic screening for starters- looking at leg length inequality, posture, muscle balance and, when necessary, low exposure digital radiographs. To us, it makes more sense to maintain a thing than to wait until the damage is severe. Have a healthy and safe year learning little spines.


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