Back to School Pains

Do you remember the excitement and anticipation of going back to school? The joy of shopping for new clothes and school supplies was almost more fun than the first day itself! Today, it seems like we’ve lost that enthusiasm for new beginnings and even less for transitions that manifest as we age. The exception being college Freshman, of course, who are like 1st graders on their way to the big kid classrooms or ninth graders who are entering high school for the first time. There’s a bit of anxiety, and fear of the unknown as well as trepidation about fitting in with a whole new group of peers. It’s a time for re-inventing ourselves and starting fresh, a theme that continues all first days into adulthood.

For me, back to school time is the embarkation of Fall, the perennial transition out of Summer and the return to structured days, playground frills, and the dreaded homework. For parents, it’s a welcomed relief from long summer days and marks another milestone as a new grade level begins. For kids, an opportunity to see old friends and relish in the change in grade level. However there is a hidden danger among school-time traditions; heavy backpacks!

According to the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, at the University of California  in a study of  the effects of backpacks on the lumbar spine in children, “over a third of the children in the United States have back pain they associate with wearing backpacks”. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just effect elementary school aged children, but teens and young adults as well.

Importantly, pediatricians are starting to see a new form of injury in school-age children and teens become more common: overuse injuries and back strain caused by carrying back packs that are too heavy. Often, backpacks may equal 20% to 40% of the child’s own body weight (equivalent to a 150-pound adult carrying a 30 to 60-pound back pack around 5 days a week). This amount of weight understandably creates a great deal of strain on the child’s spine. Additional strain that may cause back pain comes from children and teens carrying their backpacks over one shoulder, causing an uneven load on the spine.  Julian Huang, MD

Looks like backpacks should come with a round of chiropractic visits to counterbalance the strain! Check out the research for yourself and perhaps re-evaluate what your child carry’s on their back.

So what’s inside these backpacks that weren’t there 10 years ago? Practically everything! Nowadays, kids are having to bring what was common classroom supplies for themselves such as scissors, glue, crayons, rulers, calculators, pens/pencils, and paper in addition to hauling their textbooks back and forth each day. This is all due in part by declining education budgets as well as increased classroom sizes that reduce space for each individual child/teen. Even Jr High /High schoolers are transporting more and more “stuff” back and forth from school due to a lack of lockers, increased campus theft, and more homework. I find it interesting that in the “digital information age” our educational system is still dependent on heavy books versus electronic textbooks on CD when college has transitioned to     e-books and web interfacing with great results. This technology is the wave of the future and reduces our consumption on excessive supplies thereby reducing our overall economic output. Perhaps when this occurs, schools can afford to spend money on things that really matter, like more teachers to reduce class sizes and basic supplies so that kids don’t have to break their backs bringing their own.

1 Comment

  1. Great article with eye-opening insights and spot-on relevance to a problem that goes greatly unreported and under the radar, even in today’s hectic, competitive educational environment.

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