Backpacks and Scoliosis

Scoliosis Insights:

With children heading back to school this fall, we encourage parents to choose their child’s backpack wisely. Although there are no studies that prove backpacks can cause scoliosis, heavy backpacks worn for extended periods of time can cause muscle pain and balance impairment. When purchasing a backpack for your child, here are the steps the National Scoliosis Center recommends:

  1. Check your child for scoliosis annually! Since most public schools no longer perform scoliosis screening, it is vital that parents monitor the signs of scoliosis in a timely manner. Parents can identify symptoms of scoliosis, by looking for: uneven shoulders (one shoulder being higher than the other), uneven hips (with one resting higher than the other), or prominence or unevenness in the back when the child is bending over. If a parent notices these symptoms, National Scoliosis Center encourage parents be proactive and set a time to meet with their child’s physician or go to a scoliosis specialist to check the child’s curve. Early intervention is key for non-operative care of scoliosis. “When curves are identified at smaller values and we intervene effectively with bracing, we can have a very successful outcome,” says Luke Stikeleather, president and founder of National Scoliosis Center.
  2. Choose a backpack that fits. Choose the appropriate size for your child’s age and height.
  3. Look for wide padded straps and a padded back. And have your child wear both straps, which will keep the weight of the backpack more evenly distributed and promote a more well-aligned, symmetrical posture. A padded back will add comfort.
  4. Don’t put too much in the backpack. The maximum weight of the backpack should be 15 percent of the child’s body weight. Therefore a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a school backpack heavier than 15 pounds. Also, load the heavier items first and closer to the child’s back and try to distribute the rest of the items evenly using compartments.
  5. Pick a backpack that fits your child’s personality. Letting your child be part of the selection process will encourage them to be independent, help them with decision making skills and help them get excited about school.

Checking for scoliosis, selecting the correct backpack and making proper adjustments are simple measures that provide long-term benefits for the health of your child.