Dangers of heavy backpacks, how to fix the potential pain

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Now that the kids are back to school, parents, you might want to check to see just how heavy your child’s backpack is. It’s a simple task, yet one that could prevent your child from getting spine damage. 

News 8 spoke with Mary Free Bed Spine Center physical therapist Garret Biese about kids carrying around heavy backpacks and what to do about the potential pains associated with it. 

Biese suggested kids wear a padded backpack with wide shoulders and straps, specifically chest and waist straps with a buckle. It is also a good idea to own a backpack with multiple compartments to help keep the items in their specific place. 

“Not always the most expensive backpack is going to be the best one,” said Biese. “If it has something that buckles in the front, that’s really important, don’t always just go for the, the cartoon characters or the flashy colors.” 

When it comes to how your child should wear their backpack, one of the first things to look for is making sure your child isn’t wearing it too low.

“The first thing you want to do is have the bottom of the backpack above the waistline and if you can get the top right at the level of the shoulders,” said Biese. “Make sure that the backpack straps are high enough so that it sits above their buttock and nice and high on their shoulders.” 

Another important tip put the heavier items on the bottom of the backpack and build up to the lighter items. 

Biese said a backpack that is too heavy can cause a multitude of back, spine and shoulder problems. Also, bad posture can impact breathing, gastrointestinal and stomach issues. Biese said your child’s backpack should only weigh about 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

Several exercises can be done to counteract any pain from carrying a backpack: a chest opener, the “nod” and a spinal decompression. 

“If your shoulders are rounded, you can see how all of these muscles have to stretch in the front gets tight. So, if you can open and do some of the opposite trying to squeeze the shoulder blades together that’s a nice way to counteract everything,” said Biese. 

“If your child develops neck pain, one exercise that might be beneficial is called retraction,” said Biese. “That’s where you tuck your chin straight back kind of like create a double chin, and just hold it for 30 seconds.” 

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