Reducing the Stress when carrying heavy school backpacks

Written by Ann Wilkinson, P.T.M.S. Posted in Hands on Health .

Q: My daughter has an incredibly heavy back pack.  How can I help her ward off pains when she grows up that may occur from years of this on going stress on her posture and muscles?

A: One thing to keep in mind, is that a long duration, low intensity stress is as damaging as a quick, high impact injury. The back pack is a low impact, repetitive, long duration stress. Carrying a heavy backpack long term, can make imbalances in the postural muscles such that the scalene muscles, pectoral muscles and psoas muscles are shortened causing forward head, rounded shoulder and lordotic low back posture. 

A shearing force of the cervical vertebrae occurs and from these restrictions nerve entrapment can develop.

In order to counteract the stress; first of all it would be nice if the load could be broken up and not so many books at one time. Unfortunately, they do not give those choices to the kids.  They should be encouraged to take rests from holding the pack, perform doorway stretches for the pectorals: one arm on either side of a door jam leaning through the door while the arms remain on the outside. The children should definitely perform press ups which is the way they used to make girls do push ups years ago otherwise known as the cobra: on your belly and raise the upper body by extending the arms.  This exercise will mobilize the spine in the counter direction and stretch the psoas.  Postural correction emphasizing the neck to upward and straight backward imagining helium balloons pulling from the top of the head.  Also in lying if you rotate the head to one direction and laterally stretch the neck and then rotate to the other and laterally stretch in the same direction will lengthen the scalenes.  This is certainly a problem that needs to be looked at further.  Why the children resist the packs with wheels I am not sure.


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