As a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Akron Children’s Hospital, Dr. Todd Ritzman is frequently asked whether his patients’ spinal problems, such as scoliosis, are caused by carrying heavy backpacks at school.
“We can say with certainty that backpacks do not cause any long-term back problems or spine deformities, nor will they make them worse,” Dr. Ritzman said. “In many cases, we don’t know why these problems occur, but parents often want to identify an exact cause.”
While backpacks may not cause serious back problems, they can contribute to back, neck and shoulder pain, especially if a child is carrying too much weight for his size or the weight isn’t evenly distributed across his back.
Kids who have more sedentary lifestyles may be at increased risk for muscular pain because they aren’t routinely moving or stretching large muscle groups in their body.
An overweight backpack can also lead to poor posture or affect the way a child walks, putting her at increased risk of losing her balance and falling, especially on stairs or while boarding the bus.
However, backpacks are very handy and until we reach the point where textbooks are completely obsolete and e-books are in every school district, they’ll continue to help kids stay organized and carry essential items they need for the school day.