Is Your Child's Backpack Causing Back Pain?

Is Your Child's Backpack Causing Back Pain?

Should your child’s back-to-school checklist include a new backpack? The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates more than 7,300 backpack-related injuries are treated by hospitals and doctors each year. These backpack safety tips will ensure your child is able to safely and securely carry schoolbooks and supplies, without carrying the extra burden of back pain and injury.

Lighten the Load

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child’s body weight, depending on a child’s body strength and fitness. Less is always better. Lugging more weight can lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems and injury.

Backpack Safety Tips

When worn correctly, backpack injury is largely avoidable. As you address other back-to-school safety issues, such as playground safety, bus safety and bullying, make sure to include these backpack safety tips with your child:

  • Weigh backpack before school, and remove any unnecessary items contributing to a weight of more than 10 percent of body weight.
  • Tighten backpack straps so that the backpack is worn close to the body. Straps should hold the backpack two inches above the waist.
  • Visit locker to drop off heavy books between classes. Do not carry all of the books needed for the day at once.
  • Bend both knees, instead of bending at the waist, when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.

Choosing the Right Backpack

It’s possible to find a backpack that’s considered “cool” and comfortable. The AAP recommends parents help their children choose a backpack that possesses these five features:

  1. A lightweight backpack to minimize extra weight added to the load.
  2. Two wide, padded shoulder straps to evenly distribute weight.
  3. A padded back to enhance comfort and reduce pressure on the back, shoulders and under arm regions.
  4. A waist belt to help transfer some of the weight from the back and shoulders onto the hips.
  5. Multiple compartments to distribute weight evenly throughout the backpack.

Don't Fall into these Backpack Traps!

Knowing what not to look for can be just as important during the backpack search. These common backpack traps could make your child more vulnerable to back pain and injury:

  • Over-the-shoulder backpacks, messenger bags and cross-body purses that run across the body. They shift the weight to one side, causing muscle spasms and lower back pain.
  • Slinging a backpack over one shoulder. This can put strain on one muscle group.
  • Narrow straps can dig into shoulders. They can cause pain and restrict circulation.
  • Backpacks on wheels. These are a good choice for students who have to carry a heavy load, but they can be difficult to use on stairs and in snow.

How to Pack Your Backpack

Beyond choosing a safe and sturdy backpack, learning to balance the load is key to comfort. Backpack weight should be centered and close to the body so the pack doesn’t pull on the shoulders. In addition, heed these backpack packing tips:

  • Pack lightweight items at the bottom of your backpack, including socks and t-shirts for gym class. Pack them tightly so heavy items don’t sink down into the bag.
  • Pack medium-weight items at the top half of your backpack, including pencil bags and planners. Fill out backpack with these items to give it structure.
  • Pack heavy items closest to the center of the backpack, including laptops and textbooks. Keep them as close to the body as possible.

While backpack safety starts with teaching your child book bag basics, most of the responsibility for packing lightly and safely rests with your child. Encourage your child to inform you of any back pain, numbness or weakness in the arms or legs. In the event of injury, talk to your UnityPoint Health primary care provider.

comments powered by Disqus