When your child complains of back pain, you might be tempted to throw out their backpack! After all, the sight of a kid lugging many pounds of books is enough to make our own backs twinge in sympathy.
The good news is that even in healthy children, back pain is quite common but short-lived. There are ways to minimize backpack-induced stress and strain, and – just as important – to make sure that nothing else is causing the backache.
Common Causes of Back Pain in Children
Usually, muscle pain is the culprit of back pain in children. It’s “cool” to carry a backpack in a certain way, and the child will always want to carry it that way even if it’s causing backaches!
You can help your child to properly pack and carry a backpack in these key ways:
- Always wear the backpack using both straps, over the back. Never sling the pack over one shoulder.
- Heavy items should be at the bottom of the bag, and resting closest to the body for support.
- The pack should sit between just above the waist to no higher than the base of the head. Setting the backpack too low strains the back excessively.
- Do not walk with a backpack while stooping or leaning forward, as if walking into a strong headwind. This indicates that the backpack is too heavy.
- Bend the knees while picking up heavy packs.
Heavy or improperly designed backpacks used on a daily basis may lead to:
- Back, neck, and shoulder strain
- Altered posture, such as hunched shoulders
- Uneven muscle development (left versus right side) with a pack carried on just one shoulder
Rarely, back pain may be caused by serious conditions such as sickle cell anemia, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, viral infections, or urinary tract infections. Social anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues can also lead to back pain in children.
If you’re concerned, it’s a good idea to have your child’s condition evaluated by an orthopedic doctor.
When Should My Child See a Doctor for Back Pain?
Call a doctor and make an appointment if your child is having back pain along with any of the following symptoms:
- Back pain at night
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen glands
- Painful urination
Also, have your child see a doctor if the back pain doesn’t go away within a week or so.
What Backpacks Must Carry
In schools and recreational centers, fewer and fewer lockers are available for kids to use to stash their books. The result is that children become moving libraries, lugging their textbooks with them to and from school and after-school activities.
That is why it’s important to choose the right type of backpack for your child:
- Choose a lightweight backpack made of synthetic material or canvas
- Make sure it has wide, well-padded shoulder straps
- Select a pack that can be rolled along the ground as needed
- Choose a pack that has a sturdy internal structure that will help to prevent shifting of materials from side to side
In addition to heavy textbooks and notebooks, children must also carry laptop computers and other electronic devices – all of which add weight to the backpack.
Any back issues are temporary in children, and pain caused by carrying a backpack will go away with rest. Chronic pain should be investigated, however.
How Heavy Should a Child’s Backpack Be?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that backpacks should not exceed 20 percent of your child’s body weight. Therefore, if your child weighs 80 pounds, the backpack shouldn’t be heavier than 16 pounds.
Any overages should be reported to the child’s homeroom teacher, because the teachers may not be aware of the problem.
Orthopedists in Missouri
If your child is experiencing back pain, it’s important to understand the reason why. It’s always a good idea to have any pain issues evaluated by a skilled orthopedic physician.
If your child’s symptoms don’t get better after you lighten their load, we are available to provide you with expert advice on all types of back pain. Call us today at (636) 229-4222 or you can request an appointment online. We look forward to helping you and your child live pain-free.