Protect Your Child's Spine During the Back-to-School Season

In the beginning of a new school year, parents are probably focused on fitting all of their child’s new school supplies in their backpacks, but they may not be thinking about the damage and pain their backpacks can cause.

Backpacks are the number one culprit for back and shoulder problems in children. The weight of a typical backpack can be anywhere from 3 to 15 pounds, which is enough to place a great deal of strain on their backs and shoulders. It's important to educate your child on how to wear their backpack properly so it doesn't put too much pressure on their spinal cord, which could lead to even more serious injuries—including scoliosis.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition where a person's spine curves to the side or in an "S" shape. It is caused by uneven growth of spinal bones, which can happen for many reasons. When this occurs, the spine is no longer able to carry weight and nerves are compressed. Scoliosis typically does not have any symptoms, so people usually don't know they have it until they are screened for it. If untreated, scoliosis can lead to poor posture and in some cases, nerve damage. Scoliosis is most common among adolescents between the ages of 10 and 16, but it can occur among older and younger children as well.

Scoliosis is detected by screening, which involves X-rays that look for an abnormal curvature of the spine. If someone is diagnosed with scoliosis, they will likely be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon and a chiropractor. The orthopaedic physician will look at the spine to see if it needs to be braced or treated by surgery.

Backpack Safety Tips for Children

To prevent back pain, it's important to educate your child on how to wear their backpack properly.  Keep these tips in mind:
  • When wearing your backpack, keep the weight close to your body.  The backpack should rest in the middle of the back and not sag down to the buttocks. 
  • Wear both shoulder straps of the backpack evenly to prevent uneven pressure.
  • Wear both straps of the backpack. Wearing only one strap over one shoulder can strain the muscles. 
  • Ensure the backpack is not overstuffed. Encourage your child to use a locker, cubby, or desk at school to store heavy books instead of carrying them all in their backpack at once.
  • Keep an eye out for an uneven curvature of the spine. Scoliosis is most common among adolescents, but it can occur among other ages of children as well.

Why It's Important to Wear Your Backpack Properly

The spine is the center of the nervous system, so any damage to it can be quite serious. The spine also supports the load that we carry on our back, so if your child’s backpack is too heavy for them to wear properly, their spine will bear a lot of stress when trying to support the load. In order to prevent scoliosis, back pain and other serious problems from developing later in life, it's important to have your child wear their backpack properly.

If your child is experiencing any signs of scoliosis (i.e., poor posture), contact The Steadman Clinic today, where our orthopaedic and spine specialists will create your child’s personalized treatment plan. Call (970) 476-1100 today to make your appointment.