August 4, 2017

How Heavy Backpacks Can Affect Posture and Aggravate TMJ Disorder in Kids

Your jaw, your health, and your posture – most people don’t lump these three together. What you may not realize, though, is that they all affect each other in significant ways. Your kids are especially susceptible. For instance, did you know that heavy backpacks can contribute to TMD (temporomandibular jaw disorder)?

Kids, Heavy Backpacks, and Poor Posture: A Bad Combination for Health

Almost every kid who goes to school has a backpack. It’s a practical necessity for every student - they can bring home lots of textbooks.Boy not carrying his backpack properly

I regularly see them loaded down with their heavy backpacks, and all I can do is shake my head. Not everybody knows about the health issues they can cause.

The problem with backpacks? They don’t do your kid’s posture any favors. They cause pain and stress, and can even cause injury.

Specifically, a backpack filled with heavy textbooks carried over one shoulder is aggravating. It's extra weight that’s unevenly distributed. Carrying this type of weight day after day can put stress on your child’s spinal column. 

This can lead to bone misalignments, which will affect your child’s balance and posture as well as the health of their spine.

Unfortunately, headaches, back pain, and neck pain are the least of it. Posture injuries caused by backpacks can also aggravate TMD.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

An image of an aggravated TMJ and how it affects the neck and posture.

Aggravated TMJ

Your posture affects your bite, and your bite affects your posture. Both contribute to your overall health:

  • One of the main joints in your entire body is your jaw joint, or your temporomandibular joint.
  • This is the joint that lets your jaw move up and down and side to side. It lets you chew, yawn, and speak.
  • It is connected to the temporal bones of the skull, and it helps support the weight of your head.
  • TMD is when this joint is inflamed and painful.

Dr. Patricia A. Richard, M.D., explores the many connections between TMJ and other issues, including posture, sinus problems, and facial pain. Quite simply, TMJ causes widespread symptoms that go far beyond your jaw.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the jaw, face, neck, shoulders, or around your ear when you speak or move your mouth
  • Swelling on one side of the face
  • Popping, clicking, or grating sounds when you open and close your mouth
  • Difficulty chewing or an uncomfortable bite

I see it all the time in my office. When your posture is poor and your body is misaligned, the rest of the muscles and joints in your body try to compensate to maintain a state of balance. For kids, the combination of backpacks and poor posture can aggravate an inflamed and painful jaw.

How to Prevent Poor Posture

Backpacks may be an unavoidable part of being a student. However, there are better ways to carry them for better posture. I recommend that your kids prevent bad posture, pain, and injury with these tips:

  • Kids should wear both shoulder straps when wearing their backpacks. This helps the weight of the pack distribute evenly and cause less stress on the body.
  • Teach kids to load their backpacks so the weight is evenly distributed. Heavier items should go close to the child’s back.
  • Encourage kids to make multiple trips to their locker throughout the day. Discourage loading up the backpack with every book they can squeeze in.

See a TMJ Specialist in Indianapolis for Jaw Pain

If your child is dealing with back pain, neck pain, or jaw pain due to poor posture, it’s important to call up a TMJ specialist in the Indianapolis area like myself.

I’m not only a dentist, I’m an expert on TMD and can help alleviate pain in the head, jaw, and neck with the right treatments and exercises.

For specialized help with TMD, come see me at Deldar Dental. Make an appointment today.

Deldar Dental provides family dentistry, cosmetic dental treatment options, restorative dentistry, neuromuscular (TMJ) dentistry, dental implants, snoring & sleep apnea solutions, oral health prevention, dental hygiene, periodontal gum care, sedation treatments, and orthodontics to the communities of Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield, Lapel, Hamilton County, and surrounding areas.


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