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As kids are well into the school year, now is a good time to understand how that overflowing backpack could be affecting their back health. Children today suffer from back pain at younger ages than ever, with backpacks a leading cause. In fact, thousands of people head to the emergency room each year due to backpack-related injuries.¹

But it’s not just book bags: Purses, briefcases, laptop bags and even wallets can cause problems, too. If you or your child is feeling the strain — or you want to make sure you don’t — try these tips.

  • Lighten the load. Keep the weight of a backpack, purse or briefcase to no more than 10 percent of the carrier’s body weight. Heavier loads can cause you to bend forward and walk out of balance in an attempt to support the weight.
  • Double up. Use both straps over your shoulders when carrying a backpack. Slinging it over one shoulder can cause you to unconsciously hike up one shoulder while holding the other one still. This unnatural posture, along with weight focused on just one side of the body, can cause muscle spasms and pain, and may contribute to spinal curvature.
  • Or switch it up. If you carry a purse or other bag with just one strap, switch sides often to avoid uneven stress.
  • Check the fit. Adjust backpack straps so the bottom of the bag is no more than four inches below the wearer’s waist. This helps reduce the weight on the shoulders and can help prevent spinal misalignment. If possible, adjust straps on briefcases and other bags so you can wear them diagonally across your body to more evenly distribute the weight.
  • Minimize size. A bigger bag makes it easier to overdo the burden, so think about going as small as you can. In addition, bags with compartments can help you distribute and position items for a more comfortable load.
  • Go wide. Straps that are wide and padded are generally more comfortable.
  • Pull out your wallet. Sitting on a wallet or card holder for extended periods can not only be uncomfortable, but can also cause issues for the underlying muscles. Some people report back pain even walking with a wallet in their back pocket. The solution? Simply move your wallet elsewhere.

If your or your child’s back is already hurting, a chiropractic treatment offers a safe, non-medicated care alternative, with gentler methods especially for children. Doctors of chiropractic can also teach preventive exercises to help strengthen muscles and improve posture. To find a chiropractic office near you that accepts your CareCredit card, use our Locator.

Finding a chiropractor

When you’re choosing a doctor of chiropractic (DC), the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends selecting one who can answer “yes” to these three questions:

1. Did you graduate from a college accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education?

2. Are you licensed in your state?

3. Are you a member of the ACA, which holds its members to standards of professionalism and ethics?

For more tips on evaluating DCs, as well as insights on what to expect from a chiropractic visit, check out the ACA’s consumer website.

1. “Backpack Misuse Leads to Chronic Back Pain, Doctors of Chiropractic Say,” American Chiropractic Association, http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=65, accessed June 23, 2015

Additional sources:

American Chiropractic Association, accessed June 23, 2015:

“Today’s Fashion Can Be Tomorrow’s Pain,” http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=73

“Back Pain and Chiropractic,” http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=1420

All statements and opinions in "Don't Shoulder Back Pain" are the sole opinions of the Customer Communications Group and not those of CareCredit. The content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual medical provider with respect to any professional advice presented. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms.

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