Back to School Backpack Safety

For many students, "hitting the books" leads to academic achievement. Students who carry those books in overloaded backpacks may be unknowingly participating in the beginning of a health epidemic. Scientific research reveals an alarming danger associated with improper childhood backpack use. This research stems from the increasing number of reports of childhood back pain in recent decades. By the end of their teen years, close to 60 percent of youths experience at least one low-back pain episode. And new research indicates that this may be due, at least in part, to the improper use of backpacks on young spines. Back pain leads to more than 19 million doctor visits per year, according to the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services. What will that figure be when the members of the "Backpack Generation" are in their thirties and forties?


Watch children in any schoolyard struggle to walk while bent sideways under the weight of an overloaded backpack on one shoulder. You will quickly realize the potential danger of this commonplace item. How exactly does carrying a backpack affect the spine? Common sense tells us that a load, distributed improperly or unevenly, day after day, indeed causes stress to a growing spinal column. The old adage "As the twig bends, so grows the tree" comes to mind. There is a growing concern about the improper use of backpacks and the relatively scarce amount of instructional and preventative information available to young people. It is not the backpack's fault that kids have not been given the guidelines.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 7,277 emergency room visits each year result from injuries related to book bags. The CPSC also reports that backpack-related injuries are up 330% since 1996.

Do this "heavy" math: 15 pounds in an average child's backpack times 10 lifts per day equals 150 pounds lifted per day. This 150 pounds per day times 180 days per school year equals 27,000 pounds lifted in one school year. That is 13.5 tons, or the equivalent of almost seven full size automobiles.


Hauling a heavy backpack over one shoulder everyday may cause serious postural misalignments. These postural imbalances often cause vertebral subluxations. Vertebral subluxations are misaligements of the spinal bones that cause interference to the nerve system causing the body to function abnormally.

In addition, a recent scientific experiment found that carrying a backpack alters the mobility of spinal bones and can lead to restricted movement--a risk factor for pain. Yet another study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the effect of backpacks on the intervertebral disc of the spine, the fluid-filled "pillows" between spinal bones. According to the report, backpacks alter the fluid content of these discs--a risk factor for disc herniation ("slipped" disc) and osteoarthritis.


The amount of weight carried by children in their backpacks is an important issue that deserves serious consideration. To quantify how much weight children are likely to carry in their backpacks, researchers in Milan, Italy, determined the weight of all the backpacks used by sixth graders at several schools.

The average load carried daily 20.5 pounds, reaching as much as 27.5 pounds, with the maximum daily load averaging 25.3 pounds. Over one-third of students carried more than 30% of their body weight at least once during the week.


Research presented at the American Academy of physical Medicine and Rehabilitation's annual meeting in San Francisco exposes yet another potential danger of heavy backpacks: they promote falls in students who wear them.

Specifically, students who carried packs weighing 25% of their body weight exhibited balance problems while performing normal activities such as climbing stairs or opening doors, which in turn increases their risk of falls. In contrast, students who carried packs weighing 15% of their body weight maintained their balance moderately well. Those carrying 5% of their body weight were most effective at maintaining balance, compared with their peers who carried more weight.


An empty roller bag can weigh up to 80% more than an empty backpack. Factor in that there is a tendency to add more things to a roller bag, it can end up weighing 50 pounds or more. At some point during the day, a child needs to lift that bag, and proper guidelines still should be followed.

These disturbing trends clearly show the importance of a comprehensive educational program designed to give students, parents, and teachers guidelines necessary to prevent future spinal conditions due to improperly worn backpacks.


1. Make sure the backpack is sturdy and appropriately sized. Some manufacturers offer special child-sized versions for children ages 5-10. These packs weigh less than a pound and have shorter back lengths and widths so they do not slip around on the back.
2. Consider more than looks when choosing a backpack. An ill-fitting pack can cause subluxations, back pain, or muscle strain. You want to have padded shoulder straps to avoid pressure on the nerves around the armpits. Some backpacks have waist straps designed to stabilize the load. These should be used whenever possible.
3. The proper maximum weight for loaded backpacks should not exceed 15% of the child's body weight. For example, an 80-pound child should not carry more than 12 pounds in a pack. If the pack forces the carrier to bend forward, it is overloaded.
4. In loading, it is obvious that excessive backpack weight can cause problems. Prioritizing the pack's content is very important. Avoid loading unnecessary items. It is important to balance the weight of the contents or the body shifts into unnatural postures to compensate.
5. Often ignored is the act of lifting and positioning the pack. Lifting 20 pounds improperly can cause damage.

Follow these simple steps:
-Face the backpack before you lift it.
-Bend at the knees.
-Using both hands, check the weight of the pack.
-Lift with your legs, not your back.
-Carefully put one shoulder strap on at a time.
-Never sling the pack onto one shoulder.
-Use both shoulder straps. Make them snug but not too tight. Carrying the backpack on one shoulder, while fashionable, can cause long-term neck, shoulder, back, and postural problems.
-Use the stabilizing waist strap around the waist.
Of course it goes without saying that it is of vital importance to make sure that children be checked for subluxations regularly.


The Cause Of ALL Disease?

Occasionally people will hear the charge that chiropractors believe that the vertebral subluxation is the cause of all disease. It usually comes from detractors and critics of chiropractic and it represents a long ago held misconception, one not as old as the medical idea of bloodletting but just as wrong. The first adjustment was given to a deaf man and his hearing was restored. The mistaken conclusion was that chiropractic was a cure for deafness. As other deaf people were adjusted, some got better, some did not but interesting phenomena occurred. People's conditions and all kinds of diseases improved under the care of early chiropractors. They incorrectly but understandably concluded that chiropractic was the answer or the cure to all disease or helped cure the cause of all disease. It's easy to see how this would create animosity among other members of the health care community, animosity that still exists today!


While we modern-day chiropractors would not make such outlandish claims, the basis for their claims has led to a very important understanding, one that should be shared with everyone.

The reason that people got better from so many different diseases under chiropractic care is because the body has the inborn ability to heal itself and that ability is better expressed without an interference in the nerve system. So when those early chiropractors corrected the vertebral subluxation in a person's spine, the body worked better, the inborn healing ability was manifested to a greater degree and many people got better, often in a seemingly miraculous manner. It happened often enough to enable chiropractic to grow and prosper and enough to raise the frustration of the medical establishment.

Today we do not claim that chiropractic is the cure for all disease or for any disease, for that matter. We say that it is something much better! Now you might say, "What could be better than correcting the cause of all disease?" First, correcting the cause does not necessarily get a person well so correcting the cause is not necessarily that big a thing. A two-pack-a-day smoker with cancer may stop smoking but the cancer does not go away. What chiropractic does is enable every person to work a little better. The person with a disease who is getting adjusted has greater ability to handle their disease and get well. The person who will not get well has an even greater ability to live a closer to normal life having a good nerve supply. A person with no disease can stay healthier without vertebral subluxations. A person who is adjusted regularly will live longer than if they don't, just as much as they will be eating well, getting the proper rest and exercising regularly.

But let's move away from this area because that only represents a small (although important) part of a person's life. What about your ability to perform at work, school and in sports to have the energy to do the things you want to do and have to do on a day-to-day basis? Do you think a good nerve supply will enable you to perform better? Do you think a good nerve supply will enable you to think better? There is nothing you can do in your life without the function of your nerve system. If your nerve system is working at less than 100%, your activity and accomplishments will be less than 100%.

Getting your spine checked regularly for vertebral subluxation and having them corrected as soon as possible after they occur is without doubt one of the most important aspects of your life. It is more important than correcting any backache you may have and even more important than correcting the cause of disease.

Why is Chiropractic Different?

All health approaches can be divided into two major categories. The first is directed toward the treatment of disease, its effects and on occasion, its causes. This approach believes that if disease can be removed, covered up or driven out of the body, health will somehow be the end result. It focuses its attention on diseases and their symptoms and attempts to find just the right treatment for each disease, one that will be effective yet not cause adverse side-effects to the person who, as a result of the disease, is usually in a weakened condition already. This approach to health, of course, is the most expensive, the most time-consuming and the most dangerous. It also often presents the most heroic or dramatic results. Medicine and surgery are the two most well-known examples of the disease-treatment approach. However, there are dozens more, many of them drugless and more holistic in nature that treat the whole person to alleviate a disease.

The second approach to healing is directed toward restoring well-being to the entire body. It views disease as not something that needs to be fought, driven out or removed but merely the absence of health or well-being within the body. Much like darkness is nothing more than an absence of light, disease is what remains when health is lost or removed. That is not to imply that the symptoms of disease are not real. The inability to navigate in a dark room is a real problem. By putting in a small 7 1/2-watt night-light in the room we solve the problem. There are some legitimate fears in walking down a dark street and that is why we have streetlights. Crime is more prevalent in darkness. The important fact is that we do not try to treat the darkness or its symptoms but merely restore light to the void and the problem is resolved.

Chiropractic looks at disease as a manifestation of a lack of health within the body. Various factors will determine what symptoms are manifested and hence, by what name medicine describes it. But whatever name or whatever symptom, the fact remains that before the disease appears, health has been lost. The individual's body has begun to work at less than its fullest potential. When the body is working without enough light (health) for sufficient time, the symptoms of darkness (sickness) appear.
The difference in chiropractic is that it does not address its attention toward disease, nor toward its symptoms, its removal or its treatment. That is the practice of medicine. Sometimes it is necessary. Some individuals have had health absent for so long that medical intervention is required. The uniqueness of chiropractic is that it is for everyone. The individual who needs medical treatment needs to have health restored as well. The individual who has not yet manifested the symptoms of disease needs to have his or health restored. The person who appears to be in perfect health needs to continually supply that health. (Even a night-light bulb needs to be replaced periodically).

Chiropractic restores the integrity of the nervous system. When a vertebra subluxates (misaligns, interfering with nerve impulses), it inhibits the body from functioning perfectly and results in a loss of health. The chiropractor regularly checks the spine to correct subluxations as soon as they occur in those people desiring health. This is the uniqueness of chiropractic. It is a service that no one else performs. It is different from a disease-treating approach and it is a necessary component of a health-restoring approach.


The Fountain of Youth

You would think that the idea of a fountain of youth would have ended with Ponce' de Leon's failure to locate it in Florida, but every few years, someone comes up with an idea, a drug, or a gimmick which can assure people eternal youth. A recent article entitled "Enzyme May be Fountain of Youth" has once again spurred interest. Of course, the headline is only designed to grab peoples' attention. There is no secret to perpetual youth. The researchers admit that findings "won't make people any younger or allow them to live forever." By the time you finish reading the article you realize that the researchers are really not promising anything.

What they have found is that a cell divides about 70 times over a lifetime. Each time it divides, the protective end of the chromosome, called a telomere, is shortened. Eventually it is too short to protect the cell and the cell dies. The researchers believe that by inserting a gene into the cell this shortening will not occur.

There are other substances, vitamins, herbs and "natural ingredients" that are supposed to keep you younger. Most of it is just Madison Avenue hype. No one is going to discover anything that will enable you to live forever. We all know that. What they are saying or should be saying is that these substances may enable you to live a better quality of life and perhaps even live a little longer. But then that is nothing new. We have known for years that doing the things necessary to be healthy will increase your chances of living a longer, more productive and healthier life. You may not always have the stamina of an 18 year old but you will be better off than you would if you did not do those health enhancing things.

When it comes to chiropractic, we have to be the most honest people in the scientific community. We do not offer a fountain of youth. We do not promise cures for disease, we do not even promise that you will be healthy or live longer. No one can make those kinds of promises. What we can and do promise is that if we can correct the vertebral subluxations in your spine and keep them corrected as much of the time as possible that you will lead a healthier more productive life than you would if you were walking around with subluxations interfering with the proper function of your nerve system. How much healthier? Sorry, we cannot even make a guess. Perhaps it will be imperceptible. Perhaps it will make all the difference in the world, more than anything else you do in your life. We have no way of knowing. But the fact that your body will work better is based upon logic and common sense. Proper function depends upon the nerve system. If there is an interference in the nerve system, the organs and parts supplied by those nerves will not function as they were intended to. If those parts are vital organs or if they produce necessary chemicals, then the entire body will be affected. In fact, any breakdown of function anywhere in the body has a universal detrimental affect on the entire body, for each part of the body is dependent upon every other part and all parts contribute to the whole. So while the Spanish explorer's idea of a single fountain that would affect the whole body was non-existent, the fact is that what we do to our body both good and bad does affect the entire organism.

You will hear many claims for many products in the years to come, miracle cures, instant relief and fountains of youth. For some there may even be seemingly dramatic results. But for most of us, the thing to do is to realize there is no easy way to a full productive healthy life. We can wander through life like a modern-day Ponce' de Leon looking for the magical elixir of life or we can recognize that a healthy fulfilling life depends on what we do in the way of taking care of our body and doing what is best for it. The latter approach seems to me to be the one that makes the most sense.

What Does Health Look Like?

What does health look like to you? Is it just getting by until the time comes when your body fails? Is it being pain free, or covering up the pain with over-the-counter or prescription drugs? Do you attempt to maintain your body and mind with diet, nutrition and exercise in the hope of being a little healthier? What does health look like to you?

It seems that health looks different to different people based on their behavior. To some people it looks something like the Hunzas. Who are the Hunzas? They are one of many societies that exist around the world who enjoy health and longevity well into the hundreds. Does that surprise you, that people exist active and healthy well into their 100's? The rest of the story is that the Hunzas have a near utopian society. They have had no violence, no wars, and virtually no disease. They have no police force and interestingly enough no locks. They are lucky enough to have lives that did not contain many of the common causes of subluxations present in our society.

In the '60s and '70s the Hunza's were a topic of extensive research and investigation. What allowed them to live to such a magnificent and healthy age? There are many theories; some say it's the air, as all of these societies live above 8,000 feet. Some say it's the hard work that they perform almost daily. Others say it's the minerals that leech down from the nearby glaciers into their drinking water. All of these factors are important, however they are all external or outside-in contributors to health. If external factors are the answer to health then why can't we give good air, food, water and exercise to a corpse and create health? That is the question! Perhaps this thing we seek, "health", is an internal factor.

The one thing missing from the corpse is what some call the "life force" or "innate intelligence". This intelligence is expressed over the nerve system and runs the entire body. If the nerve system isn't functioning properly the digestive system cannot process nutrients properly. If the nerves to the lungs are impaired, oxygen uptake and the release of toxic carbon dioxide will be reduced resulting in loss of health. These are just two of many examples. Without a properly functioning nerve system the entire body suffers.

Many examples exist of young healthy individuals who eat well, exercise and have a positive mental attitude yet their physical body ceases to live on this planet. The gold medal ice skater, Sergei Ginkov, from the Soviet Union died from a heart attack at the age of 28. Jim Fixx, the marathon runner died from a heart attack at age 43. More recently Darryl Kyle, the baseball player died of a heart attack at age 33. What do you think was the missing ingredient? Certainly not exercise, or food or positive mental attitude! Vertebral subluxation has been identified by medical and chiropractic researchers to cause interference or static in the nerve system. This static results in less than optimum performance within the body.

Chiropractic releases the potential of the nervous system. The removal of interference allows nerves to communicate with each cell of your body. The result is health from inside out, unleashing your inner potential for health and life.

Basic Principles

Chiropractic may very well be one of the least understood philosophies of life and health. It is based upon a few very simple ideas.

The body is designed with an inborn ability to maintain itself in a state of proper function. A newborn baby may seem small, fragile and helpless, but within that body is the ability to make food into living tissue, to heal cuts and bruises, to adapt to changes in the environment, to produce the chemicals necessary to perform every bodily function, to fight off invading organisms, to live as much as 100 or more years, in short, to lead a healthy, productive life.


The brain and nerve system are the primary tools by which we attain proper function, what we commonly call health. Every organ, gland and cell in the body depends upon messages carried to and from the brain in order to function in a coordinated manner so that each part can benefit the whole of the body producing a full and abundant life.


Interference in the nerve system reduces the body's ability to function in a coordinated manner. While a corpse has a brain and nerve system, it does not have life; there is no power or energy flowing over the nerve system. Similarly, a paralyzed person has lost function due to injury to the nerve system. Even slight damage to the delicate and vital nerve system can reduce the body's ability to function at its fullest potential.


A spinal misalignment that interferes with the nerve system (called a vertebral subluxation) creates a reduction in coordinated function. Slight misalignments of the bones of the spine caused by everyday, common activities can interfere with the ability of the nerve system to carry messages that are necessary for the successful accomplishment of those everyday activities, not the least of which is the attainment of maximum health.

Chiropractors correct vertebral subluxations. The single objective of the chiropractor is to locate and correct vertebral subluxation in adults and children so that families and entire communities are able to express life at a higher level.

If you and your family are not seeing a chiropractor regularly, you are not doing all you should for your life and health.


A Normal Life


Here is what a normal life should be like:


You're born. You get no drugs and no vaccinations. During childhood you have the usual illnesses, but conservative care gets you through them without antibiotics or drugs, and you build your natural immune defenses. You don't eat white sugar, white flour, too much meat or cheese, never drink soft drinks or pasteurized milk. You concentrate on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and a clean, natural diet. You never learn to drink much coffee and never smoke cigarettes. The only pills you take are natural vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, and minerals, which are part of your daily intake. You drink at least 1 liter of water every day. Into adulthood, you almost never get sick: no colds, no flu, no headaches, no diabetes, no ADD, no "thyroid problems," no panic attacks, no growing pains, no fatigue, no digestive disorders, or high blood pressure. The only pains you experience come from accidental injury. You do moderate exercise or sports activity to maintain mobility and general fitness. You look to the care of your spine. Your entire adulthood is spent in this disease-free mode. As you age, your mind gets sharper. You experience no arthritis, cancer, or osteoporosis, no Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. Finally one day after about 100 years or so, you flicker like a candle and go out.


The above paragraph may be useful in choosing a doctor. Some doctors will say all this is impossible; which for them is true. So don't choose them. All this is possible; moreover, thousands and thousands of people are living it. So listen only to those who can help you achieve such a condition of living health. Because now we've arrived at the threshold of a time when good health and a powerful immune system are not only advisable; they are the very determinants of survival.

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