We're all familiar with the term "growing pains," right? Health
care providers use this term to describe the aches and pains
children experience in their joints and limbs as a result
of rapid growth. Previous research has shown that up to 50
percent of all 15- and 16-year olds experience some sort of
back pain, but can all of this be due to the growth process?
A new study attributes the incidence of adolescent back pain
not to growing pains, but something entirely different: backpacks.
this study, 1,126 children between the ages of 12 and 18 were
asked about their health, activities and backpack use. A child
was classified as suffering from back pain if he or she met
one or more of the following criteria in the preceding month:
neck or back pain that interfered with school or leisure-time
activities; pain in the back or neck with a severity rating
of 2 or more (on a scale of 0 to 10); a visit to a physician
or therapist for neck or back pain; or being exempted from
physical education or sports because of neck or back pain.
Based on the above criteria, 74.4 percent of the children
surveyed were classified as having back pain. Among the key
- Adolescents with back pain displayed "significantly poorer"
general health scores; performed fewer physical activities;
and had more general bodily pain.
- Significant relationships drawn between the incidence
of lower back pain and both the weight of the backpack and
the amount of time the backpack was used. Some backpacks
were inordinately heavy; 18.9 percent of the students carried
backpacks that, when full weight more than 20 percent of
the student's body weight.
- Females were more than twice as likely to experience
back pain compared to males.
- Additionally, girls who carried a purse along with their
backpack had significantly more back pain than girls who
As the results of this study show, backpacks appear to be
a leading contributor to back pain in adolescents. If you
have a young child, check his or her backpack to ensure that
it isn't too heavy. You may also want to consider buying your
child a wheeled backpack, which can take a tremendous amount
of stress off his or her back. And of course, regular visits
to your local chiropractor can do a world of good, too!
Sheir-Neiss G, Kruse R, Rahman T, et al.
The association of backpack use and back pain in adolescents.
Spine, May 1, 2003: Volume 28, Number 9, pp.922-930.
For more information on back pain (and ways to avoid it!),