Kids, Backpacks, and Back Pain
Parents, teachers, and doctors around the world are increasingly concerned about children carrying heavy backpacks. Does this practice cause back pain? Is it damaging to the growing spine or soft tissues around the spine? This is the focus of a large study in Greece of 3,441 children and teens ages nine through 15.
Researchers looked at the effect of heavy backpacks on both back pain and increased spinal curves. Students' gender, age, and height and weight were matched against spinal curves and back pain. The way they carried the backpacks (over one or both shoulders) was also recorded. Here's what the researchers found:
The authors reject the idea that carrying a heavy backpack over one shoulder causes more pain than carrying it over both shoulders. The results of this study link age and gender more closely to back pain. Girls near or at puberty are at greatest risk for back pain from carrying a heavy backpack. Therefore they should carry light backpacks. Short children should also carry lighter packs than tall children of the same age.
Panagiotis Korovessis, MD, PhD, et al. Correlation between Backpack Weight and Way of Carrying, Sagittal and Front Spinal Curves, Athletic Ability, and Dorsal and Low Back Pain in Schoolchildren and Adolescents. In Journal of Spinal Disorders. February 2004. Vol. 17. No. 1. pp. 33-40.
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