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The Weight of the World on our Shoulders

The Weight of the World on our Shoulders

When I was in elementary school, my backpack was useful for carrying my favorite raincoat, umbrella, and packing my lunch. It is possible I brought home a workbook or something now and again (or maybe a report indicating I was talking too much in class), but for the most part it was empty, and more importantly, light.

Once I reached junior high, the goal of that pack was to carry most of my worldly possessions from class to class (who had time for locker breaks when there was socializing to do…). High school was even heavier, and college backpacking was seriously enough weight that the straps would periodically burst right off the pack. In a moment of grandeur, I once tripped on my way to class in college and fell onto my hands and knees. The backpack was thrown over my head in the process (but the straps still remained on my shoulders), effectively pinning my forehead to the ground. Now, am I on a crusade to prevent other unknowing victims from having unexplainable forehead scraping incidences…? Sure! But more than that, I am trying to set the stage for awareness of a problem we as parents might not realize exists.

The Issues

Children who wear backpacks of heavier weights and poorly distributed weight (picture the one-shoulder bag here) are having issues related to poorer posture, decreases in balance and core strength, and even scoliosis.

Once the backpack is on your child’s back, if the weight is too much, it causes them to haunch their middle back in the area of the spine that typically degenerates first. Indeed, I am seeing degeneration in the spines of high-school children now). Their middle back is hunched over, which pushes their head forward and dips their lower back backward. The result is that we have essentially added nerve pressure throughout the entire spine. Those children who are sporting the pack on only one shoulder are also increasing their risk of creating a curvature in the spine (picture scoliosis but not as severe). The human body is very impressionable, especially during the time we are growing. If you continually put a significant weight on one shoulder, you will begin to develop a curvature in the spine to compensate for that weight (and yes, this is something people who carry a purse should keep in mind too).

The Solutions

I realize it might be impossible to lessen the amount of items your child needs in their backpack, but there are some things we can keep in mind. I’ve seen studies which suggest the backpack shouldn’t carry any more than 35 percent of your child’s body weight. If their daily routine requires more than this, they will have to consider carrying some in the backpack and some in their hands to help distribute the weight more evenly. Take out the unnecessary items. That thought always makes me laugh because when my step-daughter was younger, she would literally pick up rocks wherever she was and put them in her book bag. The straps should fit very snug to your child’s back, and the pack itself should end above your child’s bottom rather than below it.

The Prevention

It is also essential to get your children’s spines checked. If they are showing signs of poor posture already, slouching, inflexibility when trying to touch their toes, or their ears lobes don’t line up with their shoulder when looking from the side, it is really important to make a chiropractic appointment for them to get that resolved as early as possible.

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