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Back to School and Backbreaking Backpacks

For many children, the summer vacation is not only time off from school but a break from wearing a heavy backpack. While the time off may have served their weary backs and shoulders well, an overloaded backpack that's too small or too large could create physical issues that plague them throughout the upcoming school year and beyond if not properly addressed.

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends your child's backpack never hangs more than four inches below the waistline. You also must be wary of your child overloading his or her backpack. At most, the weight of the pack should be 10 percent of his or her body weight.

Other considerations include purchasing a backpack with wide, padded straps-adjusted for a snug fit rather than worn loosely. Children should wear both straps on both shoulders and avoid carrying on one shoulder. Again, this type of uneven distribution can lead to poor posture, misalignment of vertebra and muscle strains-even curvature of the spine.

Growing bodies need proper alignment and the backpack epidemic has led to an increase in younger patients in Rhode Island. According to the ACA website, however, the backpack problem is not restricted to the U.S. In fact, a recent study in Italy revealed that "the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man, or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman. Of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result."

In addition to buying a proper backpack and making sure it fits correctly, you may want to have a talk with your child's teacher to determine what items the student needs to be transporting. Perhaps the heavier items can be left at school. It really is incumbent on parents to inspect their child's backpack to ensure that it fits properly but also to be sure they are not packing more than they can safely carry.

While the preventative and wellness benefits of chiropractic apply to people of all ages, we certainly don't want to see children and teenagers in here having pain and difficulty due to an overloaded and ill-fitting backpack. If you think your child's pack has caused them some duress, please give us a call to check out their alignment and to see if their backpack fits properly.

Toll Gate Chiropractic is located at 189 Toll Gate Road, Warwick, RI 02886. For more information, call (401) 738-8154 or visit

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