Is Your Child’s Backpack Making the Grade?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Soon, kids will be heading back to school. That means it is time to load up on school supplies they will need for the year. Backpacks are the most convenient way to carry books and other items, but if worn improperly or overloaded they can do more harm than good. Backpacks that are too heavy put children at increased risk for spinal injury or back pain. If this issue is not corrected it could lead to problems later in life.

An injury can occur when a child is trying to adapt to a heavy load using faulty postures such as arching the back, bending forward, or leaning to one side. These changes in posture can cause improper spinal alignment or muscle strain and fatigue. This leaves the neck, spine, and back more vulnerable to injury. Parents can help their children avoid injury by recognizing some warning signs. These include red marks on the shoulders, numbness in the arms or legs, or struggling when putting on or taking off the backpack.

Some tips for safe backpack use are:

Wear both straps- using only one strap causes one side of the body to bear the heavy weight
Remove and put on backpacks carefully- avoid excessive twisting
Wear it over the strongest mid-back muscles- it should rest evenly in the middle of the back and straps should not be loose
Lighten the load- keep the load at 10-15% or less of the child’s body weight. Carry only those items required for that day. Place the heaviest items close to the back

When choosing a new backpack be sure to look for these features:

A padded back to reduce pressure on the back.
Hip and chest belts to transfer some of the weight from the back to the neck, shoulders, and hips.
Multiple compartments to better distribute the weight.

Following these tips may help prevent some of the problems associated with an overloaded backpack.