Backpacks – A Lifetime of Shoulder Problems in the Making

Now that you’re thinking about getting your kids ready for school, I wanted to share an article I wrote back in 2008. It’s a bit long for a blog, but it’s so important that I decided to publish it anyway. I wish I could change the way schools “mistreat” our children (unknowingly, but still setting them up for a lifetime of pain). Perhaps you are in a position to make a difference. If you are, I hope you’ll do anything you can to protect the children.

Now, off to my article and to understanding why heavy backpacks that are filled with books are setting up the next generation for a lifetime of pain.

The Problem:

You watch as the children are leaving for school; busy talking and laughing, lunch boxes in one hand, and a huge backpack draped over one shoulder. It’s happening all over the USA. At the same time the children’s young minds are developing, something more insidious is developing – a lifetime of shoulder problems.

Young, growing bones are called “green-twig bones” because they bend and are flexible. This enables the bone to develop properly but it is also the reason that the bones can easily become deformed as the child carries a heavy backpack filled with books.

Look at your children when they are ready to leave for school. You’ll see that if the backpack is draped over one shoulder, that shoulder is curved forward and is raised. Habit has the child put the pack over the same shoulder each day and eventually the muscles shorten due to a phenomenon called muscle memory. With the muscles now shorter, your child’s shoulder is held up and forward, even when he/she isn’t carrying the backpack.

You say, “I have my child carry the backpack over both shoulders, exactly as it was designed.” That’s good, but again, look at your child. You’ll see that his back is humped to balance the pack, or her shoulders are pulled way down and the backpack is hanging close to her low back. In either position the bones are being held in a poor anatomical position and setting the child up for problems.

The Cause:

In many communities around America, this is the first generation of children who have had to bring all of their books home every day. Some schools say it’s because of a shortage of locker space, others say it’s because teachers are forced to give more homework in order to keep up the volume of work. Whatever the reason, the health of the children has been completely ignored. Once the bone solidifies during puberty, any bend will be permanent. The joint won’t work properly, the muscles will be either shortened or stretched permanently, and the end result will be a lifetime of pain.

The Solution:

What is the solution? First there has to be an acknowledgement of the problem being caused by schools ignoring the impact of their decisions. Educators must work together to develop a plan that will enable children to have the tools to study, but eliminates the need to carry heavy books back and forth each day.

With the internet expanding at astounding rates, it’s not difficult to see the possibility of text books being scanned and available to students on their home computers. Teachers can print out just those pages that are necessary for those children who don’t have a computer at their home.

School districts will save money due to a decreased need to purchase printed textbooks, and be able to develop interactive programs and homework assignments that can be used over and over each year.

There is a plethora of talented computer programmers, software developers, and creative educators who can easily create the new wave for education – a school without books.

It’s time to move into the 21st Century, and it’s long past the time to protect our children’s future health.

© 2008

Wishing you well,


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