Backpacks are a wonderful invention. They let you carry many items while keeping your hands free to do other things. When worn correctly, the weight in a backpack is evenly distributed across the body, and shoulder and neck injuries are less common than if someone carried a briefcase or purse.
However, if a backpack is too heavy or worn incorrectly, they can strain muscles and joints and your child may experience serious back pain.
WebMD has this to say: “Most students said they hurt, at least a bit, from their backpacks; 64% reported having back pain at some time. Two of every five children said they felt pain while wearing their backpacks. In students reporting pain, about 12% said it was ‘not bad,’ while almost 90% said their back pain was ‘bad’ or ‘very bad.’”
Here are some tips on saving your child’s back:
- Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 15 to 20 percent of their body weight, or the backpack will cause your child to begin bending forward, causing harmful stress on their back.
- When packing the backpack, make sure pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back.
- Tell your child to use both shoulder straps and not just one. If the pack is slung over just one shoulder, this will eventually cause neck and muscle spasms, as well as low back pain.
- Padded shoulder straps are very important to keep the strap from digging into your child’s shoulders.
- The shoulder strap should be adjustable so it can be adjusted to fit your child’s back. A pack that is too loose and hangs low on the back (below the waist) will cause misalignment and pain.
- Check the contents of the backpack. Is everything in it necessary? If so and it’s too heavy, consider a rolling backpack instead.
Improper backpack use can also lead to poor posture. Girls and younger kids may be especially at risk for backpack-related injuries because they’re smaller and may carry loads that are heavier in proportion to their body weight.
You may need to adjust the backpack and/or reduce how much they carry if they:
- struggle to get the backpack on or off
- lean forward to carry the backpack
- have back pain
Try your child’s backpack on and walk around for 10 to 15 minutes. If you think it’s too heavy or you begin to feel a pull or strain in your back, or notice you’re beginning to lean forward to offset the weight, then you can bet it’s way too heavy for your child.
If your child has back pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs, talk to your doctor or chiropractor right away.
Save your child’s back – inspect their backpacks on a regular basis … it probably needs to be cleaned out anyway, because you know they never do it!