Each year it seems that school books get heavier and heavier. As backpacks are filled up this school year, it’s important to protect your child from back pain and posture problems by selecting an appropriate backpack.
According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), young children today suffer from back pain much earlier than previous generations. Many experts feel that poorly fitted, overly heavy backpacks are to be blamed.
New Jersey Today recently published the following list of “Backpack Safety Tips”:
- Choose It Right
Select a backpack that has wide cushioned straps, which will distribute the weight evenly on the shoulders. In addition, a backpack with a waist strap can help stabilize the load because it does not allow the backpack to flop around.
- Pack It Right
The weight of a loaded backpack should not exceed 15 percent of the body weight of the wearer, particularly in small children. Wearers should pack the heaviest objects first so they are carried lower and closer to the body. Students should pack only essential items in their backpack and, if necessary, make frequent stops at their lockers to exchange books. They can also lighten the load by carrying heavy textbooks under their arms rather than in backpacks.
- Lift It Right
Before attempting to lift it, check the weight of the backpack. Then, face the backpack, bend at the knees and lift with the legs, not with the back. Always use two hands and slip on one strap at a time.
- Wear It Right
Use both shoulder straps, making sure they are snug but not too tight. If the backpack touches the back above the collar line, the straps are too tight. If the pack has a waist strap, be sure to use it.
If you’re not sure about the fit of your child’s backpack, parents can look for a few “warning signs” that the backpack may be causing an issue. For instance, if the backpack/weight has affected a child’s posture (so they have to lean forward to carry it) or so that one shoulder is higher than the other, or if the child cannot easily take the backpack on or off, you should probably make some changes. Messenger-style bags, which are worn over one shoulder, can be particularly harmful as they put additional pressure on one shoulder, which can cause misalignment of the spine.
Parents should be vigilant about watching their children’s posture and backpack safety. Early intervention can prevent serious injuries, the types of injuries which may result in long-term health problems, “especially among young children whose bodies are still developing and growing.” If parents notice any of the warning signs listed above, they should immediately speak to or visit their primary care physician.
Source: New Jersey Today “Chiropractors Launch Community Program to Evaluate Children’s Backpacks”