The average school-age child will tell you school is a pain; however, he or she is not blowing smoke about this – the backpack most students use to carry school books, lunch, paper, pens, and anything else they might have a use for, can be, quite literally, a pain in the back.

The Back

The human back is constructed of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and the bones of the thoracic cavity – the rib cage and shoulders. The most major structure in the back is the vertebrae, forming the spinal column. The spinal column houses the spinal canal, where the spinal cord is located, in a medium of cerebral-spinal fluid. The spinal cord is the neurological system’s ‘Internet’ – it connects the body’s nerves to the brain, much as the Internet connects nodes on the network.

The rib cage is attached to the vertebrae in the back, giving the upper body its rigid structure. The organs of the thoracic cavity – the heart, the esophagus, the trachea, and the lungs – are all located inside the frontal rib cage; the lungs connect to the back of the rib cage, allowing them to be heard from the back via a stethoscope.

The kidneys are located at the bottom of the rib cage, under the latissimus dorsi muscles. The kidneys are more vulnerable to damage, as they are not protected by bone.
Inside the spinal column, the vertebrae are separated by discs; these discs provide cushioning for the vertebrae as the body moves. When the discs are damaged, the vertebrae may come into contact with each other, in the same manner as the bones in a joint with osteoarthritis pain, and cause pain as the vertebrae move.

The width of the upper back is supported by the scapula – the shoulders. The muscles supporting the shoulders in the back are the trapezius, the teres major and the teres minor, and the rhomboids.

The spinal column curves in the lower lumbar region, to provide flexibility. The upper spinal column is rigid, giving strength to the trunk, but providing only limited movement.

Back Pain and Posture

Your mother was correct when she told you to sit up straight. Poor posture compresses the organs and stresses the muscles of the back when they are forced to remain in unnatural positions. A lot of lower back pain is caused by poor posture.

Your Back and Your Backpack

The human body is capable of lifting great weights, but not continuously. The weights school children are required to carry far exceed the capacity of the body to carry for long periods of time. Most backpacks are more than twenty percent of the child’s body weight, causing the child significant pain as they struggle to get through the school day.

Overloaded backpacks are the primary source of back pain; however, improperly worn backpacks, and improperly packed backpacks are contributors as well.

A properly worn backpack is worn up on the shoulders, with padded shoulder straps. Unfortunately, it’s considered ‘cool’ to wear the pack halfway down the back. This shifts the burden from the rigid and supported upper back to the more flexible lower back, supported only by muscles. It also causes greater stress on the upper back muscles, as the straps are born by the trapezius and teres muscle groups. The muscles must cope with the weight itself, and the extra strain gravity puts on them by pulling the backpack downward. Wearing a loaded backpack halfway down the back also causes poor posture, as the lower spine will curve inward and the upper back is pulled backwards.

Backpacks are also often worn as a woman wears a shoulder strap purse – slung over one shoulder. This puts all the burden of support on the shoulders and involves not only the muscles of the back but the pectoralis muscles of the front as well. Any woman who carries a too-heavy shoulder strap purse will attest to the shoulder pain, as well as tightness in the trapezius area.

School children also carry backpacks like a woman who carries a handbag – in one hand or the other. The weight of the backpack causes pain in the arm, pectoralis, and trapezius muscles from supporting the weight.

Backpacks are often loaded helter-skelter – the child puts the books into the pack in the order he or she will use them but usually at the bottom and not near the back. Heavy objects should be loaded close to the back, for proper weight distribution.

What You Can Do about Your Back Pain

Once a child starts experiencing back pain, there are several things the parents should do:

1. Switch to a rolling backpack.
2. Buy a second set of books to keep at home.
3. If a backpack must be worn, have it properly fitted, at a trail outfitting store.
4. Purchase a pack with padded shoulder straps and a belt.
5. Teach the child to pack it and wear it properly.

These five suggestions will enable a backpack to be utilized without the ensuing back pain. And, as Martha would say, that’s a good thing.


Author's Bio: 

Sara Biston, a freelance article writer by profession. She has written numerous articles, online journals on health disorders, workouts, exercise and diet plans. She is also passionate about beauty and fitness. She has 6 years of experience in health and medical writing for beauty and medical communication industries. She also holds an education in Psychology that complements her belief of inner health. Her mantra is "Change your life by changing your mind. Today is a new day!"