The Truth About Backpacks and Back PainThe end of August is upon us, which means if your children aren’t already back in the classroom, they will be very soon! With that in mind, now is the best time to evaluate the condition of your student’s backpack, and determine if adjustments need to be made to ensure your child doesn’t suffer from back pain.

While parents can help their children make some simple adjustments to wear backpacks safely, there’s also a lot of misinformation out there about the topic. Let’s dispel 3 myths and see if you make the grade.

Myth #1: “Heavy backpacks can cause scoliosis in kids.”

Idiopathic scoliosis is a spinal abnormality of unknown cause. It involves part of the spine becoming over-rotated and curved from side to side instead of forward and backward. Even though scoliosis is typically first noticed and diagnosed in adolescents—about the same time many kids start carrying heavier books for school—current research doesn’t support the idea that a heavy backpack can structurally change a child’s growing spine.

However, wearing a heavy backpack can overload a child’s back, stressing muscles, ligaments, discs, joints, and other structures while the spine struggles to compensate.

In the short term, a heavy backpack can lead to muscle strains and other injuries that cause pain in the back, shoulder, and/or neck. In the long term, it could lead to postural changes due to muscle imbalances and leaning forward too much.

Myth #2: “My kids will let me know if their backpacks are too heavy.”

Even if your child is strong and never complains about his or her backpack, you should still review backpack habits. It’s possible for a child to experience pain from a backpack but not say anything because the pain is mild (so far) or maybe it’s not obvious that the backpack is to blame.


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