Backpacks are a favorite and practical way for students to carry their books and supplies. When used correctly, the backpack’s weight is distributed to some of the body’s strongest muscles, and it can be an efficient way to carry the necessities of the school day. However, if backpacks are too heavy or worn incorrectly, they can cause back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.
To choose the right backpack, look for the following:
- Wide, padded shoulder straps. Narrow straps can dig into shoulders, causing pain and restricting circulation.
- Two shoulder straps. Backpacks with only one cannot distribute weight evenly.
- Padded back. Padding protects against sharp edges from objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
- Waist strap. It can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly.
- Lightweight. The backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.
- Rolling backpack. This type of pack may be suitable for students who must carry heavy loads. Just remember, rolling bags must be carried up or down stairs.
To prevent injuries when using a backpack, remind your children of the following guidelines:
- Always use both shoulder straps.
- Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body.
- Pack as lightly as possible.
- Organize the backpack, so all of its compartments are being used.
- Stop often at your locker and remove any unnecessary books or items.
- Bend down using both knees while the pack is on.
Parents can also help in the following ways:
- Encourage your child or teenager to tell you if he or she is in pain or discomfort because of a heavy load in the backpack.
- Talk to the school about lightening the load and/or be sure the school allows for enough time for your child to stop at his or her locker throughout the day.
Researchers found that the average weight of a child’s school backpack was 18 pounds or 14 percent of his or her body weight. Studies have found that children carrying bags exceeding 10 percent of their body weight are more likely to lean forward while walking—potentially increasing their risk of back pain. Talk to your children and make sure they are using their backpacks correctly!