Milwaukee Board Certified Chiropractic Orthopedist and Herniated Disc Doctor writes:
Children don't need any more problems than they already have. And the last thing a child needs is a herniated disc problem. It can ruin some of the best years of a person's life. It is known that the risk of having back pain as an adult increases when a person experiences lower back pain as a child.
Years ago when computers first came into daily use we thought that by today we'd live in a "paperless society." But now when children have computers at school, computers at home, even computers in their hands, you'd think that text books would be obsolete and all they'd have to carry back and forth to school would be their lunch. That's waaaaay not true. Every year it seems like the backpacks get heavier instead of lighter.
So I guess it is not a surprise that a new study in Spine Journal of children carrying backpacks showed increased disc compression with increased weight. The scientists did MRI scans on the lumbar spines of 8 children (average age 11 years) with no load in their backpacks. Then they increased the load in the backpack and redid the MRI. What they found was that the heavier back packs were associated with decreases in disc height due to disc compression and increased curvature on either the right or the left side. A significant curve was present in half the kids who wore an 18 pound backpack.
The heavier the back pack the more pain it produced. A weight of 26 pounds gave pain score of 5 on a 10 point scale.
One finding that was particularly interesting was that the spinal curvature increased from side to side not just front to back. This was even when the children were carrying the back packs with both straps on their shoulders. While not mentioned by the scientists, the increased curvature was likely exaggerating a milder lateral curvature that was already present. It also suggests that even more damage may be done when the children wear the strap over only one shoulder.
So what can you do?
- Limit the number of books your child carries.
- Limit the overall weight in their back packs to less than 15% of the child's body weight.
- Ask the teachers if there are extra copies of the text that the child may rent or borrow from the school.
- Make photocopies of the current chapters of the heavier books.
And if your child develops back pain, then certainly have it checked by us to stop and correct the problem.