you have children in elementary or middle school, you are
probably used to seeing them trudge to and from school with
backpacks stuffed with heavy textbooks. What you may not know
is that children who regularly carry backpacks and schoolbags
generate a substantial force on their spines, which may lead
to low back pain.
A study appearing recently in the journal Spine evaluated
whether children's perceptions of backpack weight or actual
backpack weights are related to back pain, and uncovered personal,
familial, and school factors that determine backpack weight.
In the study, involving 11-year-old schoolchildren in Milan,
Italy, researchers recorded the backpack weights of nearly
250 students over six days; 115 of these children completed
a questionnaire on their feelings about carrying their backpacks.
Backpack-related activities led to low back pain in almost
half of the students; four out of five felt their backpacks
were heavy; and two-thirds responded that they felt fatigue
when carrying their backpack. Surprisingly, low back pain
was not linked to backpack weight or proportion of backpack-to-student
weight, but was "clearly" associated with fatigue while carrying
a backpack. Lifetime prevalence of low back pain was related
to the amount of time children carried backpacks on their
In this study, the average backpack weighed 20 pounds. The
resulting spinal loads on the 11-year-old children proportionally
surpassed the legal occupational limits set for adults, according
to the authors of this study. To reduce your child's backpack
weight, examine the daily contents to assure only necessary
items are within, and have your children leave what they can
in their lockers at school.
Negrini S, Carabalona R. Backpacks on! Schoolchildren's
perceptions of load, associations with back pain and factors
determining the load. Spine 2002:27(2), pp. 187-195.
To learn more about pediatric health, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/find/archives/pediatrics/index.html.