Many people think of older adults when they hear the words “back pain,” however more and more studies are showing that backpacks are severely damaging the backs and necks of children and teens. Between 2010 and 2011, backpack injuries in kids aged 5 to 18 increased 6.5%, from 12,924 to 13,766, according the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

From a child’s first day of school, he or she must carry a backpack full of books, homework, school supplies, etc. With each new school year, the weight of books increases, as does the amount of books and other supplies the child may need. Not only do children carry their backpacks back and forth between school and home, they must also carry them between classes. Many children and adolescents carry their backpack on one shoulder, further damaging their back muscles, neck muscles and spinal alignment.

Doctors and spinal surgeons in Santa Monica and the Los Angeles area are starting to see a higher number of back complaints among children, especially those involved in active sports at school. It seems that the increasing weight of backpacks, as well as injuries from backpacks (such as tripping and falling) is leaving children and teenagers in need of chiropractic help, and in extreme cases, spinal surgery.

For children who may already be living with a spinal condition such as scoliosis, backpacks can increase pain and discomfort in the short term. In fact, those who had severe spinal issues as children may have those issues exacerbated by the time they’re adults, leading to long term disabilities, and possibly, the complete inability to work.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the weight of a backpack should be less than 10-15% of a child’s body weight. A child weighing 100 pounds should carry a backpack that weighs less than 15 pounds.

So how can we help our children minimize their backpack weight? One way is to completely eliminate the weight from the shoulder, using a backpack that is wheeled around with a handle. Another alternative is to use e-book readers in classrooms instead of heavy books, which would be much easier on the backs of children, and potentially less costly than their printed counterparts. The use of in-classroom tablets is also rising, so this may very well be the future of schools, ending the issues that backpacks have been causing children for decades.

With back pain, it is important to intervene as early as possible, to eliminate as much pain and discomfort now, while also protecting the individual for the future. If you or a family member is living with spinal pain that may be the result of a child-hood habit or condition, it is best to seek professional medical attention. Today, there are many more options for surgery beyond traditional spinal fusions that allow the patient to retain as much motion as possible. Learn more about non-fusion options such as artificial disc replacement, dynamic stabilization and spinal cord stimulation in Los Angeles and take the first step toward a pain-free lifestyle.

For more information about surgical and non-surgical spinal procedures, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757 and schedule a consultation at our Santa Monica office.