FAQ: Why backpacks and mobile devices hurt kids’ posture

  • Kids carrying heavy backpacks wrong are leading to issues
  • Study: Over 90% of children in the U.S. carry backpacks that are too heavy
  • The amount of time spent on mobile devices and posture also causes pain

CHICAGO (NewsNation) — Heavy backpacks and handheld electronics are putting more strain on the necks and backs of children, leading to posture issues, which is a major concern for many health care professionals.

More than 90% of children in the U.S. have backpacks that are too heavy, according to an MRI study. Children carry up to 22% of their body weight in their backpacks. The American Chiropractic Association recommends a maximum of 10%.

How do kids’ backpacks cause back pain?

Dr. Mohamed Shalabi, aka Dr. Chicago Cracks, said backpacks have become a “huge problem” in kids’ lives because they’re really heavy and kids carry them wrong.

“They carry them on one shoulder and that will cause a little bit of an uneven shoulder that could cause some issues later on in the future and the spine,” he explained. “They carry them where they’re too heavy and they’re leaning forward. That’ll put a lot of strain on the neck muscles and fatigue that’ll cause issues later on. Also, causing some back pain could be headaches, numbness and tingling in the hands.”

Dr. Chad Domangue, an interventional neurologist and pain management specialist, said another issue is the alignment and as the heavy backpack is pulling backward, children are leading forward.

“The issue is not just muscle, but it’s the facet joint. So these joints are being moved in an abnormal direction, so the alignment’s wrong,” he explained.

Domangue said he agreed with Shalabi that alignment is an issue and if it isn’t corrected, in terms of prevention, kids will end up seeing specialists like him for the rest of their life.

“I can tell you, from our standpoint, once you have a problem in your spine, you’re looking at a lot of options that are not always great,” he said. “It’s very difficult for us to get somebody back to normal alignment and normal spinal health.”

What’s the right way to hold electronic devices?

Children are also suffering from neck and back problems due to the amount of time spent on electronic devices. It has been dubbed “text neck” and long-term effects on physical growth and development are unknown.

“I highly recommend for kids to have their shoulders straight and the neck straight. When you hold the tablet or the phone, try to hold it up straight and don’t stay on it for a long period of time,” Shalabi said. “When you look at the spine, you should have the neck going back. So what happens when you look forward or on your tablet, that bends the neck forward causing a lot of pressure on the nerves and strain in the back.”

Shalabi said he “highly recommends” parents get a foam roller and have their kids get on it, put it on the floor and roll their back to help with the pain.

Shalabi’s final message to parents: “Watch your kids’ posture and also try to have them sit up straight, have the shoulders and back straight.”

What age can a child go to a chiropractor?

Shalabi said, “You can never be too young to have an adjustment.”

“I adjusted my kids as soon as they were born. It’s completely up to the parents and usually, they bring their kids in for prevention so they don’t have issues later on,” he said.

While Shalabi feels you can start getting chiropractic adjustments after birth, Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatrician at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, doesn’t recommend younger children get them.

“There is really no reason you should be adjusting the spine that is still developing,” she said. “The problems are we’re not addressing the root cause. If the children are still carrying heavy backpacks, we’re going to be setting them up for issues no matter what you do.”

She said she’d want children to see someone who has a wide range of expertise to address both the effects of the heavy backpack and any root issues.

“I want the pediatrician who knows about the heavy backpacks, but I also want the pediatrician who has seen the very, very rare condition that needs to be diagnosed. I’m talking, God forbid, tumors, I’m talking about other abnormalities,” Bracho-Sanchez explained.


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